THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 95.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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718 Responses to Open Thread 95.75

  1. [Thing] says:

    Since the problem of explaining postmodern philosophy in terms comprehensible to rationalist types like us has come up before around these parts, I thought people might be interested in a discussion I came across here (via discoursedrome’s tumblr). The OP is a critique of a particular rhetorical move popular with critical-theory types. It’s insightful but pretty standard fare by rationalist standards. What I found especially interesting was this long comment thread by “Andy,” who starts off agreeing with the author’s main point, but goes on to give the most cogent explanation and semi-defense of pomo thinking that I can recall coming across. (Not that I’ve made any systematic effort to learn about the subject. I assume there are more authoritative sources than obscure comments on some random blog about Canadian politics, but I tend to let myself drift aimlessly in the currents of internet polemics, collecting whatever shiny ideas I come across.)

    There was also some informative discussion about the history and meaning of the word “neoliberal.”

    • tocny says:

      I don’t have a lot to add on the subject, but I’m surprised to see In Due Course linked here! I just wanted to point out that the blog isn’t really just some random blog. It’s contributors include well respected academics like Joseph Heath, who is a professor at the University of Toronto and author of a few books, and Andrew Potter, who is a professor and journalist (although more controversial). I don’t believe that good arguments can only come from good authors, but I wouldn’t dismiss the blog out of hand as just a blog.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      ‘Cryptonormativism’ is a great concept to give a name to.

      For instance, there are legitimate complaints to be made against victimhood culture, but a lot of that discourse (including the original paper) is heavily cryptonormative.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Good link. I think it puts into words something I noticed several years back – people who have very strongly held opinions – in this case, of a certain left-wing variety, but you’ll find them in various different ideological categories – which they can’t for the life of them actually argue for except by going on the attack, shocked that someone would be awful enough to have a different opinion. They’ve spent more time coming up with arguments for why they shouldn’t have to make arguments, or why you shouldn’t be allowed to argue, though.

      The irony, of course, is that because its practitioners don’t seem to know how to make normative arguments, “critical” studies winds up being incredibly dogmatic. Students who study this stuff must find it completely bewildering. While they are supposedly being taught to “think critically” about the world, they are most emphatically discouraged from thinking critically about what is being said, in the books that purport to teach them to think critically about the world.

      There are subjects being taught in secular universities where there is more dogmatism than in a fair number of theological schools – at even some conservative Christian schools, and certainly at liberal Christian schools, you could walk into an Intro to Theology course and say you disagreed with the concept of the Trinity and thought the biblical support for it was weak – which people used to get executed for – and they’d respectfully disagree, but you wouldn’t get marked down for it. There are secular schools where you couldn’t do something in this vein without getting marked down, shouted at, etc.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I found the original post interesting, and it also made me sad, in a “count up all the lives squandered” sort of way.

      I found the comments to be hilarious, especially from the people who knew he was talking about them, and then proceeded to display every one of the negative and destructive attitudes, attributes, and behaviors he illuminated in his post.

  2. johan_larson says:

    More puzzlers. These are a little different. Feel free to post answers, but ROT13 encode them to avoid spoilers.

    1.
    C S M N L R A E O R
    O P T F E T,
    O A T F O S O O T P,
    O T R O T P P T A
    A T P T G F A R O G.

    2.
    A W-R M B N
    T T S O A F S,
    T R O T P T K
    A B A S N B I.

    3.
    N S S, I T O P, B Q I A H
    W T C O T O, N I T O W
    B I A M T B P B L.

    4.
    T R O T P T B S I T P, H, P, A E
    A U S A S S N B V,
    A N W S I B U P C,
    S B O O A, A P D
    T P T B S A T P O T T B S.

    5.
    N P S B H T A F A C O O I C
    U O A P O I O A G J,
    E I C A I T L O N F, O I T M,
    W I A S I T O W O P D;

  3. Aapje says:

    This is my attempt to write down some thoughts on relationships & gender differences. I will start by stating some premises, then discussing their consequences, followed by a brief analysis of the traditionalist & progressive solution.

    I believe that the scientific evidence strongly suggests that these claims are true:
    – men favor physical attractiveness more and women favor status/earnings more, in a partner
    – women focus more on optimizing their physical attractiveness and men more on their status & earnings
    – men have a higher libido

    A difference in libido may plausibly be the cause for all these differences, as people with a higher libido surely favor physical attractiveness more. Furthermore, people will tend to optimize for what the opposite gender prefers. So it’s plausible to have this causality: men have a higher libido -> men favor physical attractiveness more -> women optimize their physical attractiveness more.

    The differences in libido and attractors are not necessarily immense, but elasticity is presumably fairly low, so they may have a strong impact. Furthermore, gender norms & social hierarchies increase the impact of these differences. Being most attractive overall, is not necessarily about satisfying the natural preferences of the person you want to be attracted to you, but also about improving that person’s place in the social hierarchy. Thus we can expect a person who is more aroused by people low on the social hierarchy (overweight people, nerds, etc) to show an actual preference more towards what society considers attractive. So once women start to see physical attractiveness as the best way to compete with other women & men see status/earnings as the best way to compete with other men, society can then judge women’s place on the social hierarchy more by their physical attractiveness than how important that trait is truly to men & the same for how men are judged by status & earnings.

    For both men and women, natural physical attractiveness peaks at a relatively low age and decreases after that. So the common female strategy of optimizing for looks increases desirability relatively early in life, but is a less effective strategy later in life, when natural beauty fades. The common male strategy of trying to achieve wealth/status takes a much longer time to pay off, increasing male desirability later in life, at the expense of not being so desirable early in life. Furthermore, because men favor physical attractiveness more and women favor status/earnings more, this effect is increased, because a man with high physical attractiveness and low earnings & status will be less attractive to women than how attractive a woman with equally high physical attractiveness and equally low earnings & status will be to men. So women tend to be more attractive early in life both because they optimize traits that make themselves more attractive at a young age, but also because men are more attracted to this trait that correlates with young age. For men, the opposite is true, with men making choices that makes themselves more attractive late in life and women also favoring the traits that naturally develop later in life.

    The result of this is that we get a mismatch where young women are relatively more desirable to young men than vice versa. Older women are relatively less desirable to older men than vice versa. Hence we expect to see young women dating up, relatively many lonely young men, older men dating down and relatively many lonely older women. This is all the case.

    However, I believe that people don’t base their dating decisions entirely on their current attractiveness, but are more likely to date closer to their age than their attractiveness would suggest, because:
    – aside from objective attractiveness, there is also relative attractiveness, which tends to be greater when people are closer together in age (basically: people of similar ages have more in common)
    – people of similar ages interact more
    – people also base their decisions on long term considerations
    – social pressure to date people of similar age

    The result is that young men who do get into a relationship get a relatively good deal, in the sense that their preferences get better satisfied, while young women get a worse deal. This flips at a certain age, so women who are raising children and who are in a relationship get a relatively good deal compared to men of the same age. I suspect that this then flips again when women get even older, because people get fewer children nowadays. Presumably, women favor having a provider much more when when they are raising children, to pay for the expenses of the children and allow them to dedicate themselves (more) to child raising. Since women nowadays frequently go back to work or increase their work hours after the children are raised, they then need a provider less. So the pure male ‘provider’ strategy, that used to satisfy women for long periods in their lives, probably now makes men very attractive for only a fairly brief period.

    However, that young men, midlife women and older men get a better deal when in a relationship by my logic, doesn’t necessarily mean that all young men, midlife women and older men are better off, because (heterosexual) relationships require participation by the other gender. So we can expect young women to fairly often prefer to stay single, rather than date young men, because they consider the deal that is offered to be below par. The same goes for midlife men and older women. So a group of young men, midlife women and older men don’t get a great deal, they get no deal. So the actual effect of these mismatches is bifurcation: the more desirable young men and midlife women and old men get a great deal, while the less desirable tend to be shunned completely.

    continued…

    • Aapje says:

      …continuing

      David Friedman drew my attention to a very interesting paper that discusses, based on economic theory, how hard to break marriage contracts might have been a way to ensure a fair deal for men and women. The paper claims that having female attractiveness peak earlier, with a relatively steep decline, while male attractiveness peaks later, with a slower decline, means that the benefits for a long term relationship that begins when the partners are relatively young, go more to the man at first and more to the woman later. In the past, women married early so men could benefit from an imbalanced situation at first, while men were then prevented from bailing when the relationship became imbalanced in favor of women. I would recommend reading the paper, which is long but worth it (requires free registration). However, keep in mind that it diverges from my theory, by claiming that older women always get the better deal, which I believe is no longer the case.

      In an age of no-fault divorce and limited alimony, the currently popular female strategy of focusing on a career at first and then procreating with a man who has already established his career and thus has achieved peak attractiveness makes a lot of sense, because women who marry young run a high risk of getting bailed on, leaving the woman with little income and low attractiveness (also because men tend to dislike providing for children that are not theirs). However, this does mean that women do not get to ‘trade’ their most desirable years in return for a man putting up with a worse deal later in life. So it seems like this can discourage men from making a similar effort to be attractive as partners, as in the past, with more traditionalist marriage laws/norms (perhaps this is one reason why male workforce participation is declining?). Again, we may have bifurcation here, where some men are/can be attractive early enough in life and to such an extent to make it worthwhile to invest a lot in becoming more attractive, while other men consciously or unconsciously decide that their prospects are so bad, that they are better off with a low cost/low gain strategy, because they feel that the alternative that was high cost/high gain has become high cost/low gain (for people with their traits).

      So assuming that society is not going to (want to) go back to traditionalism, what can people & society do to improve the situation?

      One possible solution is to equalize male and female attractiveness patterns as much as possible. So this can mean encouraging men to put more effort in strategies that pay off at a young age (like improving their looks) and perhaps discouraging women to do so (and instead focusing more on increasing their attractiveness in ways that pay off relatively late). Women can focus more on increasing their income and men less. This can be encouraged by interventions that push people into non-gender normative behavior and teach them how to do this well (because they may not be taught the skills that are necessary when making these choices). An example that is already being done is to try to push women into STEM. However, I think that many of the current interventions are not very effective, because they are based on excessive optimism & ignorance of biological gender differences that make some intervention unlikely to work. Pushing people into behavior that is radically non-gender normative, rather than just a little less so, is unlikely to work for more than a tiny number of people.

      Another example is that on the one hand women are pushed into focusing more on increasing their income, but the ‘equal pay for equal work’ narrative falsely blames gendered earning differences entirely on gender discrimination, when the primary cause seems be that men are more willing to make various sacrifices in return for a higher income. So this narrative may cause women to demand being paid more despite making choices that employers value less. This is unlikely to work out well. In general, a narrative that only promises gains, rather than encouraging people to accept a different set of costs and benefits, cannot achieve as much gender equality as a more realistic narrative.

      Furthermore, I feel that men are often not so much pushed & assisted into making themselves more attractive, but more into becoming less unpleasant to women, like pushing them to do more in the household or telling them to not approach women in some ways. Being more attractive is not simply achieved by being less unpleasant. I think that confusing the two is a mistake that is far too frequently made and that the current societal desire to mainly teach men to be less unpleasant to women, threatens to push men into becoming non-offensive, non-attractive people that women are happy to be around, but that they are not very attracted to. I think that a lot of men get angry/disaffected when they follow the progressive/feminist advice and find that it doesn’t work very well to make themselves more attractive. Then they are likely to prefer traditionalism (perhaps after listening to Jordan Peterson), defect or give up.

      Of course, equalizing how people of each gender make themselves more attractive simultaneously requires that men and women equalize their preferences for a partner or these changed behaviors will just make men and women less attractive to each other, encouraging defecting from the culturally favored norm or giving up entirely. As I argued before, social hierarchies play a role in what is seen as most desirable, so society as a whole will also have to ‘rate’ male and female attractiveness more similarly.

      It may also be necessary for workplaces to become more accommodating, with more room for part-time jobs that still provide enough hours to have a decent career trajectory, income, etc, so they become attractive to both men and women who want both a decent income and a good work/life balance. This may be easier in some cultures depending on whether there is more focus on accommodating employers or employees. Of course, there may be an economic cost to this (reducing the GDP).

      However, what seems to happen in practice in most Western countries is that having children tends to cause a drastic regression to traditional gender roles, with mothers scaling back their work hours and men increasing them. This (and the causes for it) may now be the foremost factor in preventing more gender equality from happening.

      PS. Of course, the above is written from the optimistic assumption that the biological gender differences are small enough to enable a gender egalitarian solution that doesn’t make men and/or women (far) more unhappy than a less egalitarian solution. Whether this is actually the case is unclear.

      • Kevin C. says:

        So assuming that society is not going to (want to) go back to traditionalism,

        Why should we assume that? And what if society doesn’t want to go back to traditionalism, but finds the only alternative is dying out (and being replaced by someone else who is “traditionalist”)?

        what can people & society do to improve the situation?

        Nothing.

        Women can focus more on increasing their income and men less.

        How would this help anything? I don’t follow you here. Men focusing less on their income makes them less attractive to women, increasing the whole “sexlessness” issue, and a woman’s income or “career” is irrelevant to how attractive men find them at any age.

        Of course, equalizing how people of each gender make themselves more attractive simultaneously requires that men and women equalize their preferences for a partner or these changed behaviors will just make men and women less attractive to each other, encouraging defecting from the culturally favored norm or giving up entirely.

        Men and women can’t “equalize their preferences for a partner” because those preferences are biologically hard-wired, so indeed all this will do is “just make men and women less attractive to each other”

        This (and the causes for it) may now be the foremost factor in preventing more gender equality from happening.

        And if the causes for that are hard-wired biology? What if, in fact, by reasons of biological differences, “gender equality” is, in fact, unobtainable?

        PS. Of course, the above is written from the optimistic assumption that the biological gender differences are small enough to enable a gender egalitarian solution that doesn’t make men and/or women (far) more unhappy than a less egalitarian solution. Whether this is actually the case is unclear.

        Your “optimistic assumption” is totally wrong. You seem utterly unwilling to grapple with the alternative: that every “gender egalitarian solution” does indeed make people far more unhappy than “traditionalism” (or some other “less egalitarian” solution). What if that is our reality?

        • Baeraad says:

          Why should we assume that?

          Because we abandoned traditionalism in the first place because it was, quite frankly, shit. The fact that constructing an alternative hasn’t been as smooth and simple as was optimistically hoped does not mean that a system that treated men as beasts of burden and women as brood mares wasn’t dehumanising and depressing.

          • Kevin C. says:

            wasn’t dehumanising and depressing.

            And what does that matter? Just because it was (supposedly) “dehumanising and depressing” doesn’t mean it was wrong, or less Darwinianly fit than any less “dehumanising and depressing” system. What if that “dehumanising and depressing” system really is the best our species can do and still be sustainable on the multi-century scale?

          • Anonymous says:

            Because we abandoned traditionalism in the first place because it was, quite frankly, shit.

            [Citation needed]. So far as I know, absent any direct stats about traditionalists, conservatives and the religious (which rounds off to trad-lite) tend to be happier than average.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Given the increasing prevalence of mental illness over the last fifty or so years, I’m going to need a bit more evidence that people found living in previous society “depressing”.

          • John Schilling says:

            …a system that treated men as beasts of burden and women as brood mares wasn’t dehumanising and depressing.

            I don’t think “beasts of burden … brood mares” is actually a fair description of most traditional cultures. But even more than that, I think you might want to use different perjoratives. Calling the way humans actually lived for most of recorded history “dehumanizing”, calling cultures with as best we can tell lower rates of depression than our own “depressing”, is a tad arrogant.

            I’m generally a fan of modern civilization, and think the past half-century at least is a net improvement over anything that had come before. But I feel there’s some typical-minding going on over this issue, where people who live in, who were raised to live in, 21st century Western Civilization, correctly note that they would not be happy to live in any prior culture and therefore assume that the very different people who did live in those cultures must not have been happy either.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I abandoned modernist egalitarianism because I found it dehumanizing and depressing. Men are human. Women are human. Treating masculinity as toxic and femininity as subservience denies the things that make men and woman human.

            Celebrating men as men and women as women is essentially to humanity.

        • Aapje says:

          @Kevin C

          I think that regardless of whether or not the gender egalitarian solution can work, it will continue to be the solution that most people prefer. So better then to try it in a way that has the best chance of working, by being realistic about it.

          I disagree with your claim that nothing can be done to improve the situation. It seems pretty likely to me that we are in a rather bad place right now, where men and women tend to have a weird mix of traditionalist and progressive beliefs, demands and behaviors. Quite often, people seem to be very unaware of how they/their gender incentivizes behavior in the other gender, that they themselves dislike.

          I kept it vague what it means to increase male attractiveness to women in the short term. This may very well mean relatively masculine behavior, but in a way that minimizes actual inequality. For example, token gifts from the man to the woman, rather than expensive gifts, to simulate a provider arrangement without actually providing.

          Of course, there is the possibility that this cannot work, but even then it is doubtful that society is willing to go back to traditionalism. So then we may have to pin our hope on something more radical (like a post-scarcity society, where the fundamentals of the economy are upended).

          • Kevin C. says:

            So then we may have to pin our hope on something more radical (like a post-scarcity society, where the fundamentals of the economy are upended).

            And how would that be a solution, either? Changing “the fundamentals of the economy” won’t change the fundamentals of biology, and as I see it, if anything, “post-scarcity” would only make the issues worse, not better.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Kevin –

            May I suggest getting the hell out of Alaska? I think you would be happier in Texas, if you can manage it. There is sunlight, the culture is sort of similar, and the gender balance isn’t quite so… uh… skewed.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Thegnskald

            I’ve explained on SSC before the many reasons (financial, psychological, familial) that I can’t move.

            And what does that have to do with my points about the biology of the sexes, anyway?

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            When most people merely have leisure time, ‘providing’ no longer exist.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Aapje

            And again, how does that make things better, rather than worse?

          • Aapje says:

            One of the issues with modern relationships is that due to atomization and due to the high demands that people have, they are demanding a lot from their relationships. Lower the stakes and it may cause people to be happy with a partner who checks fewer boxes.

            Or it could end up with men and women shunning each other…

            Hard to say.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Or it could end up with men and women shunning each other…

            In any reasonably foreseeable “post scarcity” that will actually work, that is probably what will happen. Soma and Feelies. Xanax, X-Box, and porn.

      • Anonymous says:

        Good post(s).

        Though why you are optimistic about sex-egalitarianism, I have no clue. The whole idea of egalitarianism, sex or otherwise, seems like a spherical cow in vacuum deal.

        • Aapje says:

          My post is more or less a thought experiment on how we can get closest to the progressive ideal, if the axiom that is necessary for this to work, is true. It is quite plausible that the axiom is false, but I think that Western societies will keep trying to achieve that ideal, at least unless it has given it its best shot and come up empty.

          It is also plausible that the progressive ideal will work great for a subset of people, who will then choose to ignore those for whom it doesn’t.

          I would like the attempt to be as good as possible and I would like recognition of those who are left behind. Even if progressives will decide that those who are left behind are acceptable casualties, I think that the progressive ideals then demand that empathy, sympathy and perhaps assistance is given to these people.

      • Randy M says:

        Good post. [edit: I was distracted while posting and ended up saying similar things to the two above posters; I think Aapje can handle the unintentional dogpile)

        So assuming that society is not going to (want to) go back to traditionalism, what can people & society do to improve the situation?

        Assuming one dislikes the idea of taking antibiotics…

        Anyway, I think that encouraging men to be more physically attractive assumes that there is a large social component to what each gender desires and relatively little biological component; not sure this is proven yet (although you do go into why it may be so). Also, I think society benefits from having high status rewarded, at least in a more or less capitalistic society where status often comes from hard work and innovation.

        what seems to happen in practice in most Western countries is that having children tends to cause a drastic regression to traditional gender roles, with mothers scaling back their work hours and men increasing them. This (and the causes for it) may now be the foremost factor in preventing more gender equality from happening.

        One wonders whether gender equality is worth stable homes for children. We need to dive down into what the causes for that may be. Parents irrationally desiring to provide more individual care? Are differences in desire to care for children, on aggregate, hard wired to an extent?

        • Aapje says:

          @Randy M

          I agree that it may be a major issue if more people decide to exit the ‘rat race’ and prefer a more balanced life. However, societies that are already far less enamored by high status/income than the US, like the Scandinavian countries & The Netherlands, do quite well in my opinion, so I don’t know whether this is actually going to be a problem.

          Are differences in desire to care for children, on aggregate, hard wired to an extent?

          It is possible that women being considerably more people-oriented on average, makes them more interested in being primary care givers. Hormonal changes due to pregnancy may also play a role.

          However, it may be possible to compensate this in part by placing children in child care. The reduced number of children may make this beneficial, as children may lack peer-to-peer interaction in small families and child care may improve socialization.

          Men may also simply be put at a disadvantage by a lack of paternity leave, creating an initial experience advantage on the part of the mother in caring, which then results in her caring more because she is better at it, thus gaining more experience relative to the father, causing her caring more because she is better at it, etc.

          • Randy M says:

            The reduced number of children may make this beneficial, as children may lack peer-to-peer interaction in small families and child care may improve socialization.

            I’m at a loss as to how decreasing the amount of parental attention increases the amount of pro-social behavior by the child. Why is having them pick up norms from other barbarians superior to having the mother train the child through targeted direct instruction and example as she takes him or her with her (or occasionally he with him) in her day to day activities?
            (assuming a typical parent and a typical day-care)

            Men may also simply be put at a disadvantage by a lack of paternity leave, creating an initial experience advantage on the part of the mother in caring

            So in cultures that pre-date the industrial revolution do we see gender equality in child care?

          • Aapje says:

            Interaction with peers teaches different things than interacting with parents/adults.

            So in cultures that pre-date the industrial revolution do we see gender equality in child care?

            Back then there were stronger cultural norms, telling people that child care was unmasculine. This is less the case today.

            Also, a lot of the child care was done by other children, while the father spent much of his time working the land, while the mother spent most of her time on the household (food preparation, cleaning, washing, etc). So mothers probably did a lot less child care than you’d think.

            Whether or not men can be encouraged to do very similar levels of child care, with better policies and a little social pressure, without this making men and women less happy is an open question. I don’t think that there is very strong evidence that this is not the case.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Historically, yes, men did a lot more of what we class as child care now.

            Teaching your sons your trade from a young age (around four years old) used to be part of the father’s role. Mothers taught daughters, likewise.

          • Randy M says:

            Historically, yes, men did a lot more of what we class as child care now. Teaching your sons your trade from a young age (around four years old) used to be part of the father’s role.

            Well, we don’t see teaching children as the parents role in general now, do we?
            And note the question was in the context of paternity leave. I think even in cultures where the man taught his sons at age five, at age 0-6 months the mother (or wet nurse) was the principal care giver.

            Interaction with peers teaches different things than interacting with parents/adults.

            Certainly. Good things? (I’m not being an absolutist, mind; I think isolated mothers in atomised households are not ideal any more than idustrialized child care is.)

          • Aapje says:

            Certainly. Good things?

            Some good, some bad. I suspect that the good generally outweighs the bad.

            The best may be to have guided peer learning, to encourage the good kind of learning and reduce the bad kind.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think even in cultures where the man taught his sons at age five, at age 0-6 months the mother (or wet nurse) was the principal care giver.

            Indeed, in ancient Persia, men apparently didn’t even see their children until they were four years old. (Granted this information comes from Herodotus, so take it with an appropriately large pinch of salt.)

          • quanta413 says:

            @Randy M

            Why is having them pick up norms from other barbarians superior to having the mother train the child through targeted direct instruction and example as she takes him or her with her (or occasionally he with him) in her day to day activities?

            I think the idea is that they’ll learn early on that social life is a harsh and unforgiving world with arbitrary rules and populated by a horde of sociopaths, and you just have to suck it up and keep on trucking. Well some kids will learn that anyways.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Interaction with peers teaches different things than interacting with parents/adults.

            For children, that is indeed true. And the things it teaches are almost entirely negative.

            A significant plurality of what is wrong with our culture is rooted in the fact that we take our children, lock them up in near prisons, tightly confined in rooms and hallway crowds with their age peers, and any interactions between kids and adults or between kids of significantly different ages outside of either that prison or immediate family is widely viewed with deep suspicion to the point where it’s being criminalized and regularly flashes into moral panics.

            This is very different from how children used to be enculturated. It’s an amazing testament to the resilience of most kids that they manage to more or less still grow up despite this. I would have a hard time designing a worse way to do it. Maybe confining them all to solitary confinement might be worse.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I was reading this and thinking “this whole analysis is missing children entirely. None of it makes sense without it!” then I got to the end. I think the last paragraph is correct in a way that undermines the rest:

        However, what seems to happen in practice in most Western countries is that having children tends to cause a drastic regression to traditional gender roles, with mothers scaling back their work hours and men increasing them. This (and the causes for it) may now be the foremost factor in preventing more gender equality from happening.

        Children aren’t just what prevent gender equality, they’re what created gender differences in the first place. Men marrying young women get a good deal because they (are more likely to) get someone who is able to bear them lots of healthy children. Women who lock a man down get a good deal because kids need a lot of resources. Pushing people into roles radically at odds with their gender is ultimately just selecting for people who don’t pay attention to what society tells them.

        But I’m biased. I don’t really think the egalitarian solution is achievable or desirable. You know how communists worked towards financial equality by making everyone poor? This sounds like working towards sexual equality by making everyone ugly.

        • Aapje says:

          That may be true, but the reality is that for the vast majority of their lives, modern people don’t (intensively) care for children.

          If the brief period where they do creates radically different demands on men and women, where people cannot optimize for both this period and the other periods well, then either people need to be more willing to accept a compromise partner or we need to find solutions that reduce this conflict.

          • Anonymous says:

            That may be true, but the reality is that for the vast majority of their lives, modern people don’t (intensively) care for children.

            This is an argument to disregard these people, seeing as they won’t be around in the long run.

          • Aapje says:

            That doesn’t follow. These people still reproduce, just not at the rate of our ancestors.

            Extrapolating the reproductive patterns to the future and declaring that groups with relatively low reproduction rates will be replaced by those with high reproduction rates seems fraught with problems, because the time frame at which that replacement might happen is far longer than the time frame in which the reproduction rates changed drastically, in the first place. Immigrants with high reproduction rates typically seem to see a severe drop in reproduction rate in a few generations, close to that of the natives.

            Also, (members of) groups that may die out in the (very) long term still deserve not to be disregarded.

          • Anonymous says:

            Also, (members of) groups that may die out in the (very) long term still deserve not to be disregarded.

            I’m not sure I agree, especially for groups that do it to themselves, through their own choices and actions. Those without a stake in the future, shouldn’t be making decisions about it.

          • Aapje says:

            These people have a stake in the ‘near’ future, their culture may just not be able to survive unchanged for the next million years.

            Of course, no culture has survived unchanged for a million years or even a decade, not even the Amish. So I think you make a very arbitrary and frankly ridiculous delineation between those who supposedly have a stake and who don’t.

            I really think that you are engaging in motivated reasoning to claim more decision making power for your own (sub)culture.

          • Anonymous says:

            What does culture have to do with anything? I’m talking about reproduction and survival.

            I really think that you are engaging in motivated reasoning to claim more decision making power for your own (sub)culture.

            “My subculture” is pretty much destined to have all the decision-making power anyway. 😉

          • Aapje says:

            Having a period with a reproduction rate that is slightly below replacement is not hard evidence that a culture is doomed to always have that (or a lower) reproduction rate. When they can go down, they can also go up. We may simply be in a lull where the transitional cultural norms are ill-suited to encouraging reproduction, but where a better progressive culture may drive these rates up again. Or not. I dunno.

            Even if the reproduction rates stay as they are, there is no imminent threat to survival.

            Are you just as concerned that oil is eventually going to run out and that our oil-based economy cannot survive, so everyone who currently favors to keep using coal should be disregarded?

          • mobile says:

            modern people don’t (intensively) care for children

            Paging Bryan Caplan, modern people often do intensively care for children but probably shouldn’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            Are you just as concerned that oil is eventually going to run out and that our oil-based economy cannot survive, so everyone who currently favors to keep using coal [sic] should be disregarded?

            Synthetic fuels are already a reality. And I expect they will be in ever increasing supply as cost of crude oil extraction rises and production efficiency is improved. In case for coal, coal lobbyists should totally stop being listened to. That stuff is horrid, and should be phased out ASAP (from being burnt directly, at least), miners be damned.

            Even if the reproduction rates stay as they are, there is no imminent threat to survival.

            Not for the aggregate national populations, no, unless you have a really tiny nation that’s being actively colonized by others. I expect, say, the Polish and the Japanese to pull through, but to drop down to maybe a quarter of their current strength (in terms of breeding population) in my lifetime, before there’s any particular improvement. And I expect this to happen in such a way that the genetic make-up of this future population is allergic to progressivism.

        • But I’m biased. I don’t really think the egalitarian solution is achievable or desirable. You know how communists worked towards financial equality by making everyone poor? This sounds like working towards sexual equality by making everyone ugly.

          Leveling the attractiveness playing field is already happening, and mostly consists of men going to the gym. That’s leveling up.

          • Randy M says:

            And hey, maybe it’s helping make health care costs sustainable!

            (Probably not, since most costs accrue from use by a minority of users already poorly motivated to improve themselves)

        • hyperboloid says:

          @Jaskologist

          You know how communists worked towards financial equality by making everyone poor?

          This is kind off topic, but Communists did no such thing. On average Communist countries are thought to have had levels of economic inequality similar to average advanced capitalist country; though calculating inequality in a state run economy is hard. As for making people poor, during the period of it’s existence the Soviet Economy grew faster than that of the United States.

          According to data compiled by economic historian Angus Maddison, in 1917, on the eve of the Russian revolution, the countries of the future former Soviet Union had an average GDP per capita of $1,084 in 1990 Geary–Khamis international dollars, by 1988, on the eve of the breakup of the Soviet empire, that figure had increased by a factor of about six and a half times to $7,043, at a compounded annual growth rate of a bit less than two point seven percent. In the same period the equivalent figure for the United States increased from $5,248 to $22,499, growing by a factor of just over four, four a compounded annual growth rate of just over two percent. The USSR obviously enjoyed the advantage of growing from relatively low level, and therefore needing only to import productivity boosting from more industrialized countries, with out doing their own innovation. So for comparison to some less developed countries Mexico’s GDP per capita grew from $1,783 to $5,771, a factor three point two, and a CARG of around one point six; while Japan’s GDP per capita grew from $1,665 to $17,185, a factor of just over ten and a half, and CARG of about three and one third.

          The Soviet Union seems to have come out in the middle of the pack, doing quite a bit worse than the most successful market economies, but quite a bit better than many others. Soviet rule can only have been said to have made people poor if one accounts for an opportunity cost of not pursuing an alternative ideal economic policy.

          • According to data compiled by economic historian Angus Maddison, in 1917, on the eve of the Russian revolution, the countries of the future former Soviet Union had an average GDP per capita of $1,084 in 1990 Geary–Khamis international dollars, by 1988, on the eve of the breakup of the Soviet empire, that figure had increased by a factor of about six and a half times to $7,043

            Do you know how he measured GDP in 1988? My understanding is that the official Soviet economic figures, widely accepted by U.S. economists, turned out to be bogus. Does he have an indirect measure?

      • Baeraad says:

        I think I agree with pretty much all of this.

        The only objection I have is that while I have heard young men complaining about being single, and I have heard midlife women complain about being single, I can’t recall actually hearing any old men complain about being single (or any old women, for that matter. Old people complain about a lot of things, but they seem to be mostly philosophical about their relationship status, regardless of what it is). This would seem to contradict the idea of old age being a more-beneficial-to-men, less-beneficial-to-women time for relationships.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t know if my (divorced) father is quite old yet, being just shy of 60. He is certainly showing signs of discontent with being single.
          My mother isn’t complaining about not having a mate, but she is unable to care for herself and is quite lonely.

          I think a lot of the problems older people have could be ameliorated with life-long marriage (and, admittedly, the degree of selflessness required to make that more likely), but, having reduced libido, they aren’t complaining specifically about not having mates.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Hmm… I think the premise I’d kick is “…we can expect young women to fairly often prefer to stay single, rather than date young men, because they consider the deal that is offered to be below par.” Why does this come about? Whence this notion of par?

        You’ve written before about unrealistic expectations in romance. Maybe those are the real problem?

        To put it into one question: If people all had accurate visions of the best partner they could possibly land, would we still have a significant problem of lots of single young men and women?

        • Aapje says:

          Is it reasonable to expect that if the quality of partner that people can attract changes depending on their age, that they will be able and willing to vary their demands/expectations along with those changes?

          Furthermore, is it not unreasonable that people may wait until the time they can get the best deal?

          Let’s say that you are currently taking the bus to work, but now have saved the money for a car. You hear that the car companies usually bring out new models, with extra features for the same cost, in April. Wouldn’t you be tempted to keep taking the bus until then?

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            You can date people without marrying them? So if there are available partners who are preferable to being single, you can date them with a tacit understanding it won’t last forever.

            College-bound high schoolers understand this. They almost certainly won’t form a relationship that makes sense to stay in after graduation, but they very likely can form a relationship that they’ll enjoy while it lasts. So… they do that. If older people don’t do this, I’d submit that it’s because they either aren’t in such a situation, or don’t think they are.

          • Aapje says:

            There is a cost to being seen as a woman (or man) who can only attract a partner of a relatively low caliber. Other people may calibrate their assessment of the person to that.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            See, now we’re getting somewhere. “People turning down relationships that would make them happy, for signaling reasons” sounds to me more like our fundamental problem.

            (Identifying it isn’t the same as solving it though)

          • Aapje says:

            Another reason that seems likely for young people is that this is probably where there is the greatest disparity in libido between the sexes and that sex is also more important for each gender. This then would allow women to relatively easily get their needs met*.

            * Aside from certain hangups that get taught to women that may prohibit them from exercising their options, but these hangups are less than in the past.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Interaction with peers teaches different things than interacting with parents/adults.

          For children, that is indeed true. And the things it teaches are almost entirely negative.

          A significant plurality of what is wrong with our culture is rooted in the fact that we take our children, lock them up in near prisons, tightly confined in rooms and hallway crowds with their age peers, and any interactions between kids and adults or between kids of significantly different ages outside of either that prison or immediate family is widely viewed with deep suspicion to the point where it’s being criminalized and regularly flashes into moral panics.

          This is very different from how children used to be enculturated. It’s an amazing testament to the resilience of most kids that they manage to more or less still grow up despite this. I would have a hard time designing a worse way to do it. Maybe confining them all to solitary confinement might be worse.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          If people all had accurate visions of the best partner they could possibly land, would we still have a significant problem of lots of single young men and women?

          Good luck with that. Young women quickly figure out the “best partner” they can *bed*, but many will not want to be able to understand how different that is from the “best partner” that they can *wed*.

          It used to be the case that the difference was coldly explained to them by their aunts and grandaunts, and even then most cultures learned they had to take the choice away entirely. We now no longer do that sort of thing, and we may now be learning the hard way why so many cultures over historical time would think we are utterly insane for doing so.

          The next couple of generations are going to be… amusing.

      • yodelyak says:

        Good distillation of stuff I’m already clear on, although I was pretty confused as a younger man. Even with the force of anecdote and personal experience only, this stuff is all clearly correct as a loose framework… although the problem of what you do is a big problem, not least because whose interest is served by solving the problem?

        One thing I’m fond of suggesting, and feel virtuous for pointing out (and now I know why) is that physical attractiveness is something you can teach chickens to recognize by accident, just if you teach them to recognize faces at all, implying that attractiveness is basically what happens when you teach neural networks to activate for “face!” by using equal exposure to a large sample of faces. (Specifically, in college I read a study where chickens who’d been trained to expect food after seeing random faces from a large population would start pecking the ground after being shown a picture, even before the food was delivered. By assigning a grad student to count how many pecks a chicken made before the food was delivered, you could measure how much “face!” the neural network was noticing for each face that was observed. Faces that resembled composite images of lots of faces–so called “average” faces => more pecks. Hence attractiveness is, quite literally, about neural nets that are relatively broadly trained.) What that tends to make me think is that one key to a good marriage is lots and lots and lots of training, and exclusive training at key times or in key settings, so that one special person gets elevated to “face!” in a very special and exclusive way… with probably some room for marrying someone who looks / acts a little bit like someone one adored as a child, and some serious norms against relationships that form between adults and children ever turning sexual. Wood Allen is a gross defector and we should all dislike him at every opportunity.

        As a big additional benefit, who gives a damn if one’s special person’s face is ‘average’ w/r/t/ other people’s faces? In fact, a little bit of quirk is *good* for pair-bonding–better to have an odd face that one person is keyed into as a “10” than have a 9/10 face with thousands of interchangeable suitors (all of whom can anticipate the transaction costs of distinguishing themselves from each other). Of course marrying without regard to looks can seem mercenary (if you are then marrying someone who initially doesn’t excite that much, like a soldier reluctantly going to war) or prove stupid if you stretch this too far and marry someone who *never* becomes sufficiently attractive to make it worth while (sorry honey, but the truth is you’ve been hideously ugly this entire time; I just thought it’d wear off faster.)

        • Randy M says:

          What that tends to make me think is that one key to a good marriage is lots and lots and lots of training, and exclusive training at key times or in key settings, so that one special person gets elevated to “face!” in a very special and exclusive way…

          So in other words… romance?

          • yodelyak says:

            Uh… yeah, but also not having sex with anyone else, even if romance is on hiatus. And maybe using booze or ecstasy, if at all, only for special sexy times with your partner, and otherwise abstaining, even though said things can be relaxing and fun. And maybe not looking at porn. Maybe even going full Jimmy Carter and shaming oneself even for merely lustful thoughts about a person-not-your-spouse. In short, this is an argument for abstaining from sex until having sex with a compatible life-partner, and then as much for stubborn life-long monogamy as can be endured (“even to the edge of doom”), and as much sex as you have time for, after the wedding.

            It’s putting the literal meaning back into the phrase “love-making.” Love is a verb, but also a noun, and it’s not just a found thing.

          • Randy M says:

            Works for me.

            Love is a verb, but also a noun, and it’s not just a found thing.

            Can I go off on this tangent? My solution to “is love a feeling or a description of behavior?” is that it is an attitude. Attitudes are like filters or modes of thought that can be deliberately adopted or allowed to come up on their own, that influence both emotions and behaviors. Love is basically intentionally over-valuing someone else. Doing so foolishly is of course ruin, but doing so within reason can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        • Aapje says:

          @yodelyak

          Supposedly, there are exercises that one can do to create/increase feelings for a person, like staring into their eyes for a long time. Perhaps partners should do that from time to time.

          Also, I need to point out that Woody Allen’s case is a bit special, because he was in a LAT relationship with Mia Farrow and reportedly he had extremely little contact and no parenting relationship with Soon-Yi Previn. Allen started spending serious time with her when she was 19.

          • yodelyak says:

            Ah. I didn’t know that re: Woody Allen. I’d edit but I’m outside the 1-hour limit.

          • yodelyak says:

            For “exercises”–well, I think you can go from the idea that “thoughts become actions, actions become habits, habits become character” to the idea that “marriage is character building.” I don’t know if there are many exercises that I’d recommend as likely to work if they don’t start from “thoughts” that are correct–simply taking the *action* of staring into one another’s eyes is unlikely to help if you’re privately thinking “I am soooo going to divorce this person when she’s 35”. Plus I’m 32 and don’t have many solid legs to stand on, past knowing what *not* to do… my dad died when I was young, and mostly I figured out what was unhealthy by trial, re-trial, re-re-trial, and eventual ever-so-grudging admission of error while somehow still re-trying… so uh, not really intending to preach here.

        • yodelyak says:

          Here’s a link for that chickens-faces-beauty connection: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26192929.

          Crazy, but yeah, attractiveness is probably NOT that good signal of reproductive fitness, in that if any community figures out how to stop their neural networks from irrationally caring about it, it won’t matter at all. Of course, no community like that yet exists. There’s a fun story in “The Story of Your Life and Others” collection by Ted Chiang along these lines.

          (NB, even to someone whose own personal quirk means they don’t care about attractiveness at all, personally, it’s still a factor worth thinking about for mate selection, with a positive weight for being attractive, because everyone else in your kid’s mating-age cohort is likely to care about attractiveness, and attractiveness, while pretty changeable with what is “average”, is still likely to correlate pretty significantly with what was “average” when you were mate-seeking, and to be substantially heritable. Turtles all the way down, as it were.)

      • Kevin C. says:

        Then they are likely to prefer traditionalism (perhaps after listening to Jordan Peterson), defect or give up.

        Also, could you explain what you mean by “defecting”? Because I’m not sure how one would “defect” in this situation.

        • yodelyak says:

          One example of defection (as a man) would be to form a pseudo-marriage, whether by shacking up or by marrying but not taking the commitment seriously, (particularly by keeping one’s finances independent from a less wealthy/high-earning spouse) and then break-up/divorce after ten years or so and get a younger, hotter wife.

          One example of defection (as an attractive woman) would be to simply skip having kids at all, or forming a romantic connection with a same-age man (he’ll probably have an ego, and want to get “recognition” for his “contribution”, and want you to deal with diapers and nursing and shit). Instead, go be a sight-for-sore-eyes for somebody with status/money, and buy a vibrator and some cute dogs you can dote on–so cute!–without having to deal with diapers or angry teenagers or the rest of it, and make sure to squirrel away some cash because, of course, looks don’t last.

          Another example of defection (as a man, or as a lesbian) is to pick off women in frigid or low-status marriages by offering all the great high-status sex or emotional confidence/intimacy their insecure husbands aren’t giving them (hours-long hand jobs! scissoring! toys! bold conversation about dying being okay, if you know you are *truly* loved! rough sex from a man who knows he’s a man!) A couple years’ time I spent as a gay rights activist in D.C., and deep in the thick of gay corners of Portland has given me three examples of middle-age dykes whose main way–and apparently somewhat successful way–to get laid was to hook up with women in straight, conventional, seemingly loveless marriages by just being really pushy/assertive but also loving. I don’t know how common cheating is, or what fraction in what corners is by which genders, but cheating happens in part because there are people who treat married women as unfortunates who need to be released from their cages, rather than as adults who are where they chose to be. (Of course, sometimes married women *are* unfortunates who individually are much better off released from their cages, so the whole no-cost-divorce thing is a pretty damn decent thing to have invented, at least taken on an individual basis.)

          I think I’m onto what Aapje is after by saying “defecting.” An attitude of defection is an attitude that says, “Sure, I’m having sex that old, sexless gray-tooths will rightly think is really bad for societal well-being. But screw society, I’m looking out for number one.” All of the above are my efforts to

        • Aapje says:

          @Kevin C

          Yodelyak gave examples, but some PUA techniques also qualify, like sending signals that are typical for those who are high status and rich, but then not actually providing these benefits. ‘Plate spinning’ is also a technique for this, where the man simultaneously has casual relationships with multiple women, where he shows up for sex and teases the woman with the possibility of a relationship with a high status/rich man, but never commits to any of them. So the women (subconsciously) feel compelled to compete with the other women for this (seemingly) high quality man by giving him the benefits of the relationship without the costs, assuming that the man will commit to the best woman and then accept these costs, but the guy keeps enjoying just the benefits as long as he can.

          Another example is a woman who offers casual sex or a casual relationship with a man, but then ‘accidentally’ gets pregnant.

          A woman can also do the female version of the ‘plate spinning’ technique, where she gets the man to keep spending money on her or doing other things for her, without actually having sex with him and/or committing to him.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        The fully atomized solution:

        –Legalization and mainstreaming of sex work
        –Rise and mainstreaming of what we might call ‘romance work’: paying for relationship aspects other than sex
        –If you want a non-paid partner, you’re free to look for one, but it’s not society’s problem if you can’t
        –Mainstreaming of surrogacy and single parenthood
        –UBI to even out some of the inequality, help people afford single parenthood, etc.

        This system features near-perfect gender equality of opportunity (well, except that men can’t be surrogates), but probably quite large inequalities of outcome.

        (Yes, I’m aware basically everyone of all political stripes is going to recoil in horror from this)

        • Kevin C. says:

          –Mainstreaming of surrogacy and single parenthood

          Except surrogacy, by its nature, is going to be too expensive to be broadly available to a significant fraction of the population — even with government subsidy. And where would you even find that many women willing to be surrogates, anyway?

          And as for single parenthood, what about all the negative outcomes associated with it, particularly those that remain when you control for finances — and thus aren’t amenable to being solved by “throwing money at it”?

          –UBI to even out some of the inequality, help people afford single parenthood, etc.

          Except, as has been discussed here before, we’re nowhere near being able to afford even the most basic UBI, nor will we any time soon; and, again, negative outcomes from single parenthood remain even when people can “afford” it.

          We’re a long, long way from anything near the Abh solution being remotely viable.

        • Protagoras says:

          Well, I’m admittedly strange, but I don’t see anything on your list that makes me recoil in horror.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            It’s mainly the end of point three that I suspect this crowd to have trouble with, plus the implication that points one and two justify it.

            But I’m beginning to fear I’ve committed the puffin fallacy here…

          • quanta413 says:

            As another data point, I have no trouble with 1-3, but think 4 is probably a bad idea and find 5 questionable.

            I think 3 is the least controversial proposition in there. I mean, isn’t that the status quo?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m skeptical of how much can actually be achieved in terms of 2 and 4, but wouldn’t find the attempts to be morally reprehensible. 5, in part constitutes demanding the romantic ants cover the economic costs of the romantic grasshoppers’ failures, but would probably be acceptable within limits.

      • yodelyak says:

        This is a bit of a tangent, but I’ve been meaning at some point to post a book review of “Little Big Man” and it turns out it’s pretty appropriate here. All of these different gender relationships–e.g. young women trying to trade in their looks, women with children wanting a provider, & etc., is there, and relatively easy to see because of how the story tricks you into relating as in-group, but also with far-group learning mode for both Cheyenne and white people, in the middle of them fighting each other, plus there’s a bonus around how additional gender categories like hemaneh or contraries can give young men options tailored to suit, and take the pressure off for them to be standard-issue braves, that way creating a solution for everybody. Plus when asked to name a favorite author, Ursula K. Le Guin (after making the necessary comments about how impossible and nonsensical it would be to have *one* favorite) named just one: Little Big Man.

        The protagonist clearly learns from his own experience, and recounts expressly, the basic lessons you’d need to know the truth of what I’ve recently started spouting like a slogan: “liberals see the virtue in human compassion and human soulfulness; conservatives see the virtue in human caution and human memory; libertarians see the virtue in human reason; these virtues of course are not exclusive”)… he has a view of how Cheyenne tribes work (having been raised from age 10 by the Cheyenne) that clearly articulates the way each of these virtues work to make the Cheyenne society function (to the extent that it does) as well as illustrates fail modes of each. (Fail mode for conservativism: you can’t remember what you haven’t encountered: Cheyenne memory is worse than useless for dealing with people who build buildings with cellars, let alone railroads. Fail mode for libertarianism: without sufficient soul, and protections of everyone by shared strength, individual defection will go unpunished, and society will rot. E.g., well, dozens of things, but the tendency for Cheyenne marriages to end with murdered husbands and tribal schisms that last decades is one good example. Fail mode for liberalism: excessive reliance on spirit is what you call an indian who has just lassoed a train, or a tribe mentality that can’t distinguish between rewarding the taking of an individual risk for societal benefit–that is, being brave (“If the battle goes badly for me, then it is a good day to die”) and accepting societal extinction just as readily (“If the white men will rub us all out, then it is a good day to die.”) Lately I’m trying to figure out how to navigate my concern that waaay too many progressives are using a line like that, “If abandoning traditional marriage is the death of society, then it is a good day to die” to earn points with each other for their bravery when the risk they are taking is a shared, not an individual, risk.

        This review is crap–weird, filled with run-ons, and undecipherable in its politics, yet clearly political. By contrast, Little Big Man is great. The writing is clean and readable, the action is steady, the protagonist likable, if a bit rough and a bit unreliable. What’s not to love?

        (if you can’t find the time to read the book, watch the movie (the Dustin Hoffman one). It’s not as good as the book, but still very good.)

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        The wisest solution to me seems to be increase the attractiveness of young men and encourage young women to marry said young men, then impose social shame upon those who frivolously break their marriage bonds.

        Getting more attractive isn’t rocket science. Dress nicer, be a bit more cocky-funny, and go to the gym more.

        Perhaps social shame should also be heaped on those who are promiscuous or still unmarried after a certain age.

        This is not incompatible with gender egalitarianism.

      • ContrarianSystem says:

        Do you have any thoughts on how polyamory plays into this train of thought?

    • A1987dM says:

      women focus more on optimizing their physical attractiveness

      That wasn’t always the case, so any explanation for why this is true now had better not also apply to a few centuries ago.

      (haven’t read the rest of your comment yet)

    • James says:

      Nothing to add for now, but good post, thanks.

  4. Kevin C. says:

    Has anyone else here been in the position of being too poor to die? By which I mean, having the cost of disposing of your remains exceed your net worth, so that you have to stay alive lest you place a financial burden on your next of kin?

    • johan_larson says:

      I have to wonder how that’s even possible. Surely every locality has some sort of provisions for minimal disposal of bodies if no one steps up to take responsibility for doing so?

    • skef says:

      Amortized out over, say, six months, having that status would be at least unusual, even taking johan_larson’s point into account. It implies* that the person in question isn’t in a position to save any money and also isn’t a financial burden on next of kin in other ways. It seems like only someone who gets by entirely on social services, or who is getting support from someone else, would fit that description.

      * That is, it implies this except when considering instantaneous or short periods.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I’m on SSI and state public assistance (and housing subsidy); the first of these forbids me from having more than $2000 in financial assets.

        • skef says:

          It’s the SSI that puts you in this category. Very few US social welfare programs are sufficient to get by on but that’s one of them (by design).

          To be clear, I didn’t mean to deny that you were in this situation. It’s just an unusual one.

          (Well, I suppose that local governments might try to track down next of kin of the homeless and try to recoup costs from them. This indicates that about half of counties (so we’re talking lower-48 here) can legally impose such costs, although actually collecting is probably a losing proposition.)

        • Anonymous says:

          If you don’t spend every penny of your dole, pay your next of kin some small fee every month until you’ve paid them the entire cost of your post-mortem ministrations. Afterwards, they will be obligated to bury you, since you’ve already given them the money to do so. Maybe make them agree to do it even if you die before you’ve paid it up entirely.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Does a burial insurance policy count towards your assets? I doubt it. If you are in decent health, a burial insurance policy is pretty cheap.

    • Anonymous says:

      Pretend you are an elephant, and go somewhere far away to die? If you die in Kazakhstan, I doubt your relatives will be harassed over the burial bill.

      How are you doing, by the way?

      • Kevin C. says:

        How are you doing, by the way?

        On the pre-visit form for my therapist visit this morning, I checked the “suicidal thoughts” box. Does that answer your question?

    • hyperboloid says:

      Kevin, don’t kill yourself, it’s a terrible decision.

      You may think things are bleak now, but you do have a chance at a better life, things will never get better if you’re dead. Even with your disability there are things you can do to improve your life, and there are people who can help you.

      • Kevin C. says:

        but you do have a chance at a better life

        [Citation needed]

        Life is like a movie, if you’ve sat through more than half of it and it’s sucked every second so far, it probably isn’t going to get great right at the end and make it all worthwhile. None should blame you for walking out early.

        –Doug Stanhope

        • Anonymous says:

          I probably wouldn’t walk out of the only movie that I would have a chance to ever see, even if it sucked.

        • hyperboloid says:

          As Anonymous rightly points out, so far as any living person can tell this is the only movie you’ll ever get to see. Even if there is only a one in a thousand chance of it getting better I would try to stick out to the end.

          And I suspect the chances are much better than one in a thousand. For one thing, your problems have been caused by a medical condition, and while a cure doesn’t seem likely in the short term, neuroscience is advancing, and better treatments could become available in the next few years that could offer you relief with fewer side effects. Now you may tell me you don’t think the chances are very good of any medical advance helping you, and you may be right, but they are better than nothing, and nothing is what you will get if you kill yourself.

          Furthermore, I think there are life choices that you can make that can improve your situation, even if your medical condition remains unchanged. You have said that you can not find work, in any form( I’m not sure I entirely believe that, but I don’t know the full details of your condition).

          From what I can tell from interacting with you here, you are an intelligent, articulate person who seems perfectly capable of writing, have you considered trying to do that professionally?

          You live off state assistance, and therefore likely have plenty of free time, and it seems the one advantage of being a schizophrenic it that it may give you life experiences that other people might find interesting. From William Blake to Phillip K Dick, many artists and creative people have suffered from mental health problems, and it seems in some cases to have actually contributed to their work. You may tell me that the odds of becoming a successful author are low, and you may well be right, but they are better than the odds of your situation improving if your dead, which are zero.

          There is a community here of people, some of whom are concerned for you, if you think some additional money could help your situation, I suggest you put up a gofundme page, but as skef rightly points out, nobody is going to contribute if they think it’s going to help you kill yourself.

          • Kevin C. says:

            From what I can tell from interacting with you here, you are an intelligent, articulate person who seems perfectly capable of writing, have you considered trying to do that professionally?

            Yes. And then I read all the things by professional authors about how e-books and such are making writing more of a “winner-take-all” market where folks like King, Rowling, Meyer, etc. rake in huge bucks while folks who could formerly make a small but reasonable living off their writing now have to have a “day job” to make ends meet. Or look at the tiny market for any non-fiction writing on any topic I could plausibly write upon (and say something that hasn’t already been said better a dozen times before). Or look at the places where I’ve looked for advice on creative writing only to be told “yeah, you probably shouldn’t be writing,” given the issues with characterization stemming from my autism.

            the one advantage of being a schizophrenic it that it may give you life experiences that other people might find interesting.

            It hasn’t.

            if you think some additional money could help your situation, I suggest you put up a gofundme page

            Additional money almost certainly wouldn’t help, and besides, from what I can tell, any sort of “e-begging” would only serve to threaten my SSI benefits anyway.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Writing fiction has always been a pretty much winner take all business, what e books have done is lowered the barrier for entry enough that somebody like you might have an, I admit slim, chance of winning it all. And that’s better than nothing.

            Or look at the places where I’ve looked for advice on creative writing only to be told “yeah, you probably shouldn’t be writing,” given the issues with characterization stemming from my autism.

            I would like to see some of your writing, so I could make an assessment of that. Since you have nothing but free time, with practice, help, advice, and perhaps even a coauthor it seems like you’d have a good chance of improving.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Hyperboloid

            I would like to see some of your writing, so I could make an assessment of that.

            Here.

            with practice, help, advice,

            Help and advice from whom, exactly? And as for practice, like my childhood karate instructor put it “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” If you’re practicing something wrong, and aren’t getting sufficient corrections as to how to do it right, you’re just ingraining bad habits, no?

          • Michael Handy says:

            Your writing isn’t bad, it reminds me of a cross between Lovecraft and Moorcock. Has a bit of Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath going for it. But it’s unclear prose-wise and a tad overwrought.

            The characterisation isn’t too bad, I’ve read reams of military sci fi with worse emotional scapes.

            What it needs is

            a) A robust edit, you can probably get the feel of what you’re doing across much more clearly in 1/3rd the words.

            b) I’d recommend looking at someone like Brandon Sanderson, who has a very stripped down, workmanlike prose that still describes wondrous things. This will help give you space to clarify some of the plot, which seems to be quite back-loaded towards the end in this piece.

            c) Also, I feel the creature would be sufficiently weird speaking in just Iambic pentameter, not Rhyming Couplets. But that’s likely a matter of taste on how much Whimsy you’re going for with your creature.

          • hyperboloid says:

            There is a community of people here, a great many of whom enjoy fantasy and science fiction (which seem to be genres you’re interested in) who can provide you with feedback.

            I’ll start.

            The first thing that comes to mind is that you seem very influenced by HP Lovecraft, this far from the best choice of role models. Lovecraft is the kind of guy who gets brought up as a lot of people’s favorite “bad writer”. He had a great imagination, and was very good at world building, or at least giving a sense of verisimilitude by creating the impression of a vast linked mythology. What he was bad at was actually stringing together a paragraph that wasn’t drowning in turgid purple prose.

            Then, the grotesqueries made way for what had to be the mistress of this menagerie of monstrosities

            It’s a common mistake for novice writers to try and make their language sound more “literary”, by adding a bunch overwrought descriptions, full of unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, and uncommon nouns. Even when your writing in the third person, the narrator is a kind of unseen character, a storyteller describing events to the reader. I mean “mistress of this menagerie of monstrosities”, who talks like that? It’s better to use simple, almost conversational language that does more with less.

            From what I can gather from that excerpt, this guy is going to ask the help of some kind of demon like creature called “the Fleshshaper”. She has some kind of minions, the aforementioned grotesqueries, and has the power to, well, shape flesh (I’m guessing turn people into horrible mutants or something).

            Keeping to our lesson of using simple language, how about the first sentence is something like:

            “Then the swarm parted, and it, she, was in front of him. Her vast multitude of legs dragged her bloated body towards him, like a silkworm crawling across a leaf. ”

            We could go on with something like:
            “She was the Fleshapper, the mother of monsters, an Outer Shell spirit who had the power to tell his body to tear itself apart, and force what was left to twist itself into one of those things. ”

            Don’t be overly florid, just use regular language, and try to let the ideas speak for themselves. Before I give any more advice It would be helpful to have some context for this world. What is this setting, who are the characters, what exactly is an “outer shell spirit”, and what kind of story are you trying to tell?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Michael Handy, @hyperboloid

            See, the thing is, I used to (as in, throughout my time in public school) have very much a “stripped down, workmanlike” “regular language” style. And was consistently, unceasingly criticized and graded down for it. It lacked “voice,” you see. It was “too flat,” “too plain,” “boring.” It failed to properly use my vocabulary. It was too much “just the facts, ma’am.” (And when I pointed to well-known authors who made careers with a plain-language “just the facts, ma’am” style, like Hemingway, the answer was always “sure, he could pull it off, but you’re not Hemingway.”) That my writing was “too fast,” going from “this happened, then this happened” without properly “taking time” with description and scene-setting. That I need to “show, not tell”; for example, every one of my teachers would have said that “Then the swarm parted” is “telling,” not “showing”, and that “like a silkworm crawling across a leaf” would also be totally unacceptable, because similies, especially with the word “like” should be used rarely, and one should always prefer instead either metaphor, or a more detailed, “direct” description without analogizing.

            This is what has come from all my attempts to overcome all those horrible, fatal flaws in my terrible, terrible writing. And now I’m being told that’s terrible and unacceptable too. Once again confirming that I shouldn’t be writing, because it’s always going to be wrong no matter what I do.

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            Perhaps the solution is to write in a style that is in between what you were doing then and what you are doing now. There is a middle ground between leaving out all description and writing in a level of detail that leaves no room for the reader to use their own imagination.

            I also want to point out that it can be nice for the reader to have descriptive detail parceled out over the course of a story, so they learn new things along the way, rather than be inundated with detail upfront. A writing technique that may help here is to write a detailed description of each character for your own use and then parcel out bits of this at various stages of your story.

            I also suggest not being discouraged by the difficulty of earning money by writing, but instead to try to find an audience. Give away your writing for free and ask for feedback. Try to focus on becoming the best writer you can be and see where this leads you.

            Ultimately, you have a variety of issues and seem to desire a silver bullet: a solution that will solve many of your problems at once. This seems unrealistic. Becoming a moderately appreciated writer, still means that you are bringing joy to thousands of people. If you can achieve this, it may change you and/or result in opportunities that can allow you to make other gains as well.

          • Randy M says:

            This is what has come from all my attempts to overcome all those horrible, fatal flaws in my terrible, terrible writing. And now I’m being told that’s terrible and unacceptable too. Once again confirming that I shouldn’t be writing, because it’s always going to be wrong no matter what I do.

            1) What Aapje said. Why assume you would get it write after try number two, even if you had a decent amount of natural talent? Maybe you over-corrected and with a few more iterations you can zero in on a good medium.
            2) Maybe you got bad advice before. I can’t find a specific reference, but I’ve read a fair bit of Orson Scott Card discussing writing and criticism; his view is that professional critics and literary scholars emphasize voice, tone, word choice, etc. while most readers are far more concerned with plot and characters and–especially in sci-fi–ideas. The purpose of your words is mostly to clearly communicate the story, with being euphonious and cleverly arranged a nice but very small plus.

            In regard to the market, you are correct, but if it doesn’t materially improve your situation but does get you some intellectual engagement and perhaps some interaction with readers, it would be of benefit to you. And speaking as a breeder, books are a perfectly valid form of immortality, and getting one finished to a state you are proud of could help assuage your self-critical feelings in other areas.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @kevin

            I think it’s very possible that Alaska public school teachers might have no idea what their talking about. At any rate, as Aapje says, you have to strike balance between overloading the reader with descriptive detail, and producing nothing but boring flat writing. His suggestion of writing detailed descriptions beforehand, and then doling them out bit, by bit, though out the natural rhythm of the story is a solid one.

            I can see a lot of good points in your writing. For one you seem to have a lot of imagination, and that’s important because you can’t really teach somebody that. The idea of the Fleshshaper, a psudo-demonic spirit that communicates through hideous chimeric mass of assembled body parts is deeply creepy. The problems are with the prose, which is a problem you can solve with practice and feedback; and even then you’ve got some good lines.

            Rule One of dealing with powerful spirits: be polite

            That’s genuinely funny, in fact thats one place where I’d be more descriptive, go with something more like: “Rule One of dealing with incomprehensible cosmic horrors from beyond the human plane of existence: be polite”

            If you show us some more of your writing, explain more of your ideas, and give us some insight into the world your trying to build , we can give you some feedback, and help you develop your skills. And then you can do something useful with yourself, instead of wallowing in misery.

            I’m not saying you’re going to get rich writing (though there is a non zero chance of making some money), but you can at least find an appreciative fan base, and even if you never sell a single E-book, you can still feel like you contributed something.

          • bean says:

            Thinking it over, I’m amazed that nobody has tried to do serial fiction in the OTs. We’ve done serial nonfiction on every topic under the sun, from battleships to curling to accounts receivable, and all have been well-received. I know my writing has improved a lot in the past year, and you could probably get the same benefits with fiction, particularly if you specifically asked for writing criticism.

          • carvenvisage says:

            @Kevin C

            I’ll go over that writing telling you which parts seemed ‘off’ to me. I think that’s more useful than general advice, and most writing forums I’ve seen were people do this can be quite unpleasant.

            There’s like a cult of ‘gotta be rough’. Not sure where it comes from. Probably partially from people there being aspiring writers themselves and having a ‘this is how you do it’ schema for their own writing, that they then directly apply to other peoples without (for some reason) intermediation, but it definitely does seem to be a self reinforcing cultural thing as well.

            Then, the grotesqueries made way for what had to be the mistress of this menagerie of monstrosities.

            Good continuous/ongoing feel to it imo, except for the Then-comma- at the start.

            I think this would be a quality sentence if it somehow extended the continuous-ongoing feel back to the beginning, e.g. ‘…then the..’ to start or something. (not saying that specifically would work)

            Her motion was slow and ponderous, her bulk propelled by a multitude of comparatively tiny, stubby legs, like a silkworm creeping along a leaf.

            This seems good (well, it seems disgusting and insectoid, which is what you’re going for)

            The mass of her body resembled nothing so much as a colossal maggot, rounded and bulging and pulsing, smooth and glossy and pallid, measuring at least ten feet long.

            At least ten feet long kinda sounds to me like *you* don’t know. That reaction probably doesn’t make any sense, but I think it might feel more real if you just made up a number. (Also ewww wtf am I reading)

            At the front end of this corpulent larval body, it curved upward to join with the hips of a rather human-shaped torso.

            The ‘rather’ is supposed to be whimsical? offhand? I’m half expecting the view to pan up to a top hat and monocle. Sentence ending there seems kind of abrupt to me with the ‘rather’ in there.

            From the front of this junction, emerged a short, sharply-curved neck and a large bird’s head, covered with a fuzz of short, fine feathers of a deep blue, and possessed of a long, thin, curving beak. This head stared up at Pìlosi with large, glowing yellow eyes.

            Yeah I think this should be more continuous with the previous sentence. Otherwise very good/disturbing.

            Above that, lay a well-muscled abdomen devoid of a navel, with an hourglass waist, all with an ash-gray skin.

            Above its birdlike head there’s an abdomen? I lost you.

            Oh wait the bird’s head is jutting from where their humanish torso joins the insect below.. WTttttF. this is way too much for me.

            Uh, I guess the bird’s torso could be ‘limmed’ against the torso behind ir or suchlikee, if this is our first introduction to this lovely world of demon insect anatomy. Maybe if it isn’t, it’s clear enough, idk.

            My main reaction at this point is definitely WTF though. Is it all like this?

            From beneath her bare, slender arms and rather dainty hands lay a second pair of larger, multi-jointed limbs ending in giant scorpion’s claws, connected to the shoulders of a second humaniform torso, emerging behind the first.

            Yeah this is just losing me. It’s more detail than I’m willing to follow, not because it’s overly detailed, because of the content. I’m thinkg ‘It’s disturbing and digusting as fuck, I got that already’, then sat through the lingering and emphasing, …wtf it’s still going?

            -Why is the viewpoint following this all in detail? (Isn’t this where it fades into a dim sillhouette the background as you spring forward to ‘kill it with fire’?) Why would the VP character or narrator be lovingly casting their eye over this stuff? Maybe it makes sense in context, but from where I started it seems kind of like you’re trying to put the whole character design in there, instead of the impressions the narrator/character should/would actually have.

            If the author can’t look away, is captivated by it, maybe there should be a line in there like (vague example just to illustrate possible purpose of line) ‘____ eye’s fled from what he saw, seeking refuge, but caught on more and more [WRONG] details’, until, at last, he finally ran out of ___ to be shocked by. (But I don’t think this first person ‘eyes caught on disgusting horror’ thing is very pleasant for the reader, and should be limited to whatever purpose it serving.)

            But then I don’t buy horror books so maybe take that with some grain of salt if you’re aiming for such an inexplicably-existing genre.

            Her face was, in its shape, almost disconcertingly normal; that of a young woman with rounded cheeks, thin lips, and a dainty, slightly upturned nose

            Nice contrast

            But beneath the white brows were a pair of eyes whose irises were the glittering crimson of polished rubies, also focused upon his own with cool regard.

            The ‘I don’t want to know more’ from earlier still applies, but I also find this hard to parse. I think e.g. ‘second pair of eyes, the glittering..’, (drop the whose) would be easier to follow.

            Her ears tapered to points, but were normally sized, not the elongated blades of a T’rēmō’s.

            Again, who is noticing the detail on her ears? Is the character drugged or something?

            -It seems odd that anyone would notice this in the midst of everything else going on. (maybe the ear type has a greater significance I don’t understand just reading this snippet?)

            And emerging from her hair above her forehead were a pair of branching, bone-white antlers.

            These full stop ‘ands’ continue to give me the impression of dry facts being recited rather than a continuous experience. For me they’re the biggest ‘technical’ flaw by far.

            Beyond all this, though, was the sheer power that radiated from the horror. It battered against the fire mage’s mystic sense, like a great, cold flood threatening to douse his meager inner flame.

            In my mind, horror is cold, not power. Seems like they’re being mixed and matched here.

            ‘Fire mage’ seems like needless detail, unless it’s particularly relevant at this point (maybe he’s there as an exterminator and fire mage powers are particularly good for that), though maybe maybe it’s a placeholder at this point. Except for that, it seems like a good ‘looming towering vastness of power’ sentence. (I recently read one in a sanderson book, so I have some basis of comparison)

            Pìlosi desperately sought to overcome the primal terror she evoked, the instinct to submit to the greater power pressing down upon his own. He repeated again and again in his mind that, as a Mage Upper Subaltern of Dîgyū’s Space Forces, said organization owned his body and his sole loyalty

            This is the first time where ‘show not tell’ seems applicable to me. The first sentence is mostly implied by the second. You could add on something like (just an example) ‘..a desperate anchor, mantra, (anchor, mantra, anchor, mantra..) in that all consuming sea of dread’, that imparts similiar information to the first, but even the second on its own would be a lot smoother than the two together.

            For that was the key lesson the briefing for this mission had imparted: so long as he firmly recognized no authority on the part of the Fleshshaper over him, then his body would remain beyond her power to reshape.

            Woah, that’s a cool idea! (/way of putting it) I’m getting back into this.

            Finally, the spirit deigned to speak. “An emissary comes to this, my lair, to seek my aid in a mundane affair? ‘Tis time you sought to ask of me mine aid, for the Abyssals come back and invade.”

            As presently written it doesn’t sound near smooth, grandiose, etc enough for an eldritch presence to me. In particular the ‘a’ and the ‘the’ seem out of place, and the ‘come back’.

            Her voice was, incongruously, that of a little girl.

            Should there be a Hyphen on incongruously?

            Only, layered upon that were strange echoes, as if reverberating from down some long, empty corridor, and augmented further by what might be called the reverse of an echo, as if fainter repeats of the spirit’s words occured not just after them, but also before.

            niiice

            “We’re aware of that, yes.” The words slipped out of Pìlosi before he could catch himself. The Fleshshaper frowned. Stupid, he thought. Rule One of dealing with powerful spirits: be polite.

            His self reprimand seems kind of mundane/pat to me. I would expect him to resist a (possibly fatal) urge to cringe in terror here. Like a vivid cold lurching dislocation that he speaks through thanks to his training or will or fear/survival instinct coming back around full circle to prop him up.

            I am Mage Upper Subaltern Tsàrdơng,” he said, remembering the lesson to never give a spirit your full name if you can help it, “here representing the Space Fleet of Dîgyū, and the Allied Forces.” He bowed at the appropriate depth for greeting a foreign, civilian dignitary, and not a hair deeper.

            The next bit, where the spriritual pressure recedes after this assertion
            seems very cool to me, but the italic ‘not a hair deeper’ without lead up seems strikes me as very abrupt and unexplained. Like a FFFUUUUUU rage comic in its lurching sudden-ness. I thought this guy was trying to hold onto his sanity in a sea of primordial terror?

            “I am, indeed, here to negotiate for your assistance in fighting the enemy that threatens the peoples of the galaxy, both mortal and spirit.”

            Dropping the commas on ‘indeed’ might make it flow easier. Presumably they’re there to indicate a weighty pause but they weren’t heavy enough to do the job for me.

            “No, that’s not our intention, Madam Fleshshaper. They’d be a drop in the bucket, at best. I’ve been sent to seek your aid in helping with the many wounded soldiers we expect to result from the battles to come.”

            Nice moment of scale there, (I’m sure that’s the intention, it’s not exactly obfuscated, but I think it works well)

            This did not seem to help the spirit’s mood, and her spiritual pressure flared with hostile intent. “Mend injured flesh and practice not mine art? Offensive, this suggestion! Nay! Depart!”

            “I must apologize for being unclear; that’s not—” Pìlosi’s words were cut off when the Fleshshaper, with a speed far beyond what she previously showed, lunged forward, the right arm of her back torso darting forward, and grasping his chest below the shoulders in the massive claws. The mage was lifted clear off his feet, and haul

            No issues here. The fleshshaper’s speech seemed better in the 2nd and 3rd instances. Not sure if that’s because I’m getting used to it or if they first one was just comparatively bad.

            _

            Anyway TL:DR, it strikes me as a good first or second draft, actually having potential. (I’m surprised, -just because someone is suicidal and likes writing doesn’t mean they’ll be a good writer). Main things that took me out where the full-stop-ands and the level of detail on the creature. I encourage you to keep pursuing it at least as a hobby, you seem to be at quite a decent level already. (not intended as a subtle ‘don’t kill yourself’. That includes if you’re killing yourself tomorrow in the intervening hours. I’m just saying it seems like you’ve got to a point where you’re getting some results, so it should be at least a little fun/rewarding and if people say you have no business writing that seems empirically wrong )

          • Kevin C. says:

            Thanks for the advice, such as it is. And also, just as an aside, I should note that the Fleshshaper — or at least her physical appearance — comes straight out of one of my dreams — and not a terribly unusual one.

          • Aapje says:

            You may want to take inspiration in H.R. Giger’s life/work. He suffered from severe depression and other mental issues and channeled this into rather dark art.

            You may know his work from the Alien movies, as he designed the famous aesthetic of those movies.

            So he achieved mainstream success, but he was probably more appreciated by a counterculture movements, like the metal scene.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          [Citation needed]

          regression to the mean, plus being suicidal is a shit evolutionary move so humans probably evolved to not want to kill themselves

          –Doug Stanhope

          a fabulous comedian, but judging by the fact that new standups of his show up in my Youtube feed every so often he’s still alive, so I wouldn’t take that advice if I were you

          • Kevin C. says:

            being suicidal is a shit evolutionary move so humans probably evolved to not want to kill themselves

            Which does not constitute evidence that my life will get better, (particularly given how all the issues stem either from my incurable defectiveness, or from poor choices when younger that it’s now too late and I’m too old to do anything about).

          • AnonYEmous says:

            but it does constitute evidence that you will feel better about your life, regardless of whether it actually gets better

            oh well, you don’t seem like you want to be convinced and I don’t know enough (about you, the world) to convince you anyways. That said, please live.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          [Citation needed]

          Most people who unsuccessfully attempt to commit suicide later end up feeling glad that their attempt was unsuccessful. (I saw one survey putting the figure at 70%, but I can’t remember the exact provenance.) So, that would suggest that even people who do want to kill themselves generally end up feeling sufficiently better about their life that they want it to continue.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s almost certainly a selection bias in that the people who are most serious in their intent to kill themselves will be the ones using the most lethal methods and making the least effort at self-rescue. If two people jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and aren’t killed on impact, the testimony of the one guy who swims to shore might naively suggest 100% remorse/regret/glad-to-be-alivedness, but I’d be skeptical of that.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @John Schilling, the evidence’s a little stronger than that. Scott goes into more detail here; see especially subheading “Empirically, Suicides Regret It.”

        • James says:

          For what it’s worth, note that Doug Stanhope talked a stranger down from suicide: http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/05/comedian-who-jokes-about-suicide-talked-a-man-down-from-a-bridge-after-his-gig-5421488/

          I very much liked his comment to the press on afterwards:

          The word hero is a very strong word, especially the way I’m having it tattooed in 18-inch Gothic script across my back. I will be wearing tights and a cape for the rest of the tour.

        • Vorkon says:

          There are a TON of movies where the first half was slow, but it picked up in the second half. It’s one of the most common criticisms I have about movies these days.

        • buntchaot says:

          sunk cost

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          You’re here now. You have an obligation to do your best to make the world the best it can be for those here now and those who follow.

          Committing suicide isn’t going to do that, as the vast majority of living people (everyone who isn’t an asshole) contribute more from their existence than they take for their existence.

          • as the vast majority of living people (everyone who isn’t an asshole) contribute more from their existence than they take for their existence.

            I’m curious. Do you regard population increase as, on net, a good thing or a bad thing? The conventional view is “bad,” whereas the quote suggests “good.”

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I’m profoundly ambivalent on the topic and thus prefer to avoid butting my thoughts into debates on it, merely reading the debaters.

    • skef says:

      Kevin, I suspect that there are many people here who, when confronted with a “gofundme” page to help with your burial costs, would contribute. But those people would and should not “pledge” to do so because they have no wish to be confronted by that page and don’t want you to take that path.

      There are people here who do care about you on a human-to-human level, even some of those who disagree with you about almost everything on the normative front.

      • Kevin C. says:

        There are people here who do care about you on a human-to-human level

        First, [citation needed]. Second, if in fact there are such people who care “on a human-to-human level” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), then why?

        • CatCube says:

          [citation needed]

          I hope skef doesn’t mind me speaking out of turn, but this is probably a citation for that proposition. Edit: This is a known-good citation.

          if in fact there are such people who care “on a human-to-human level” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), then why?

          Well, you’re a part of the community here. I can’t say I agree with many of your posts–I agree with probably about half of your (traditionalist) policy prescriptions, and agree with almost none of your posts about how there’s no way to effect positive change–but disagreement with somebody doesn’t mean not caring about them. You’re capable of expressing your disagreement without personal attacks, which can be rare on the internet.

          I will submit for your consideration that how you feel right now is probably a poor guide for planning your future. The problem with depression is that it warps your view of your surroundings, and I counsel you to not make any decisions while under it’s influence, just as I would counsel somebody to not make any important decisions drunk.

          • Kevin C. says:

            The problem with depression is that it warps your view of your surroundings, and I counsel you to not make any decisions while under it’s influence

            Except I’m always “under its influence,” so aren’t you just counselling me to not make decisions?

          • skef says:

            Yes, it was meant to be self-citing.

            Second, if in fact there are such people who care “on a human-to-human level” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), then why?

            For one thing, the present world is filled with people who wreak havoc on the lives of those around them while in a sort of (cultivated?) moral fugue state, later remembering their actions in a distorted way or not remembering them much at all.

            You’re not one of those people, perhaps to a fault. From all evidence you put a great deal of thought into avoiding making your problems into other people’s problems. That is an admirable trait in anyone.

          • Aapje says:

            I agree with skef. You seem to have scrupulosity, which is unfortunate because being a good person is not about not harming anyone, it’s about doing more good than bad. In fact, without risking doing any harm, it’s impossible to makes many choices that have high expected value to society (a high chance of improving society and a small chance of worsening it). So ironically, a huge fear of causing harm, can make a person less capable of improving the world than a person who is less fearful. However, of course, those who err in the other direction can cause great havoc as well.

            I think that a lot of people here, including me, have great respect for the source of your scrupulosity*: that great fear of making the world a worse place. Erring in the direction of being fearful to act is much more respectable than erring in the direction of not sufficiently caring about harming others. That you are badly calibrated doesn’t detract from the fact that at your core, you are a person who wants to be good, which I respect.

            * And quite a few suffer from it ourselves, although generally to a lesser degree

    • Telminha says:

      I have been in that place before.

      Kevin, I don’t know a lot about you, but I know a few things at least: You write English well, and I envy you because of that. I wish I could write as well as you, then perhaps I could participate here more and give you better (unsolicited) advice. I also know that you are a caring individual; you worry about leaving debt behind, and financially burdening your family. You are also a creative person.

      I was once an aspiring writer. I, since childhood, have been writing a story about a boy and a fly. My story tells the adventures of a fly who suddenly becomes self-aware, learns about poetry and philosophy, and accidentally finds out about the life expectancy of a fly. That last period is her most productive. One day, she’s reading a book, very entertained with a line, but she’s so small, you see, that the boy doesn’t notice her, and closes the book. She was on page 23. Well, this was the alternate ending. A friend of mine was upset, and I had to rewrite it. She’s doing okay, don’t worry.

      Can you imagine my surprise when I moved to the US, and as I was visiting a bookstore on a Wednesday, I learned that there was already a series of books about a boy and a fly? My writing career was over before it even started. You still have an opportunity, Kevin.

      I care about you on a human-to-human level, because I’ve been in your place before. Because I believe your departure would make a lot of people sad, and you do not want to make other people sad; it breaks so many rules! I’m sure people here, well-versed in Utilitarianism, could tell you why, but you probably already know this. I also care because of this circle. You are right there, see? Where it says “Fellow Citizens.”

      I lost a friend to suicide four months ago. I miss her very much — every single day. Do you know that old Superman movie, when he flies around earth trying to go back in time, so he can save Lois Lane? That scene visits my mind very often. I wish I could be Superman, and go back in time just before it happened so that I could save her. An early departure causes such pain and heartbreak. It also leaves a subtle message to the ones who stay.

      Kevin, don’t disappoint this stranger. I had to emerge from the lurkers underground just to tell you this. If my life were a movie, it’d receive worse ratings than the Emoji one, but at least I am the star. I will keep on playing my part. I hope you keep playing yours, too. Wish you well.

      • Aapje says:

        That picture of Hierocles’ circle(s) isn’t very good. Kevin is more than a fellow citizen, he is a member of this community.

        The emotional closeness to self-selected communities of people who are alike in some way can vary, but I think that it generally is fairly high, especially today in our individualized society.

        • Telminha says:

          I would say that the circle with “Fellow Citizens” includes groups like neighbors, colleagues, and members of one’s various communities.

          The Circle of Hierocles is a good psychological exercise to expand one’s sense of brotherhood and affinity for others.

  5. johan_larson says:

    So, I’ve been looking at the differentials in pay for software engineers in the US and Canada. And I gotta tell you, it’s just sad. Here are some figures from Vancouver’s pitch to Amazon for HQ2:

    Market Average Annual Tech Wage
    Software Engineer (USD)

    Vancouver, BC — $60,107
    Toronto, ON — $62,365
    Atlanta, GA — $92,380
    Boston, MA — $103,979
    Washington, DC — $108,330
    New York, NY — $108,878
    Seattle, WA — $113,906

    Toronto to Seattle is just about double. I suspect the culprit is demand. Seattle has two large top-tier tech companies based locally. Toronto has nothing of the sort. There are smaller tech companies, of course, and banks and one outpost of one of the majors.

    • buntchaot says:

      one (not totally serious) way to read this is that the worth of living and working in Canada and not in the US is about 50k$

  6. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    So I’ve been screwing around with ideas for a simulationist RPG but my literature review skills are failing me in an important area: I can’t find good information on the effects of height and weight on the likelihood of winning a fight. Ideally real fights or combat sports which don’t segregate combatants by weight class.

    If anyone here knows a good resource for that information I’d appreciate it. So far the best I’ve found is a book that I don’t want to buy and can’t find PDFs of and a sociological study which relies on self-report data. This information has to be out there but it’s managed to evade me.

    • dndnrsn says:

      If skill is equal, weight correlates with strength, and even just bulk without strength is hard to deal with – a big fat guy can be annoyingly heavy, it turns out.

      Real fights have so many variables that it would be difficult to isolate one or two variables, I would think.

      Combat sports generally catch on to segregating people by weight very quickly – this is because of the advantage that size and strength give. So there’s clearly an advantage, but once there are weight classes, you lose the ability to see how weight gives an advantage. You might look at competitions from before they added weight classes – early UFC, judo before they added weight classes, old-timey boxing. BJJ still has “absolute” openweight competition, usually as an addition to the weight classes (they’ll have it at the end of the competition, for example). What you see there is while the biggest guy doesn’t always win (the deepest pool is always going to be in the middle-of-the-curve weight classes, and when there’s a no-upward-limit category it’s often full of clumsy fat guys) the winner of the absolutes is often bigger-than-average: if the UFC were to have an openweight division, the winner would still likely be someone from the LHW (205) or MW (185) (tack on 20-30 pounds for the weight they cut) divisions, even though the guys at FW (145), LW (155) or WW (170) might be more technically skilled (due to the larger pool). However, that there are not height classes would seem to indicate that height is a less important variable than weight. Taller usually means greater reach, which is an advantage, but it seems like it’s easier to deal with a reach advantage than a weight advantage.

      I don’t know how you’d quantify this. But then again, I’m not a huge fan of simulationist RPGs in general… Past a certain point complicating things doesn’t pay.

      EDIT: It occurs to me that the best way to do it might be to have a strength cap based on size. The strongest 150lb guy is never going to be as strong as the strongest 250lb guy.

      • beleester says:

        It might make more sense to do it the other way around – base your weight partly on your strength, so that a character who builds muscle mass becomes heavier. And from a game design perspective, I want to say “I’m building a strong fighter, what sort of body does he need for that?” rather than “My character is 180 pounds, can he be a strong fighter?”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I don’t know how you’d quantify this. But then again, I’m not a huge fan of simulationist RPGs in general… Past a certain point complicating things doesn’t pay.

        This. I would try to come up with extremely succinct rules that realistically model the weight advantage in grappling most of the time, rather than extremely complex rules that do it 99+ percent of the time.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Thanks for the quick and thoughtful response!

        It occurs to me that the best way to do it might be to have a strength cap based on size. The strongest 150lb guy is never going to be as strong as the strongest 250lb guy.

        That was one of the two options I was considering. I’m basically doing that already for intelligence and non-combat skills: your maximum skill rank with training is based on your rolled intelligence. So maybe your maximum strength with training is set by your size but you still need to train up to that point.

        My other idea was that size determines how much punishment you can take or dish out but that skill determines how often you hit or are hit. That may or may not be realistic but it feels right.

        But then again, I’m not a huge fan of simulationist RPGs in general… Past a certain point complicating things doesn’t pay.

        I agree that mechanical complexity is generally something to minimize in a game. Fiddly rules suck away precious time that could be spent actually playing the game.

        But I also feel that grounded mechanics can throw fantastical elements into harsher relief. E.g., if a knife in the gut is actually a deadly threat, the zombie who shugs it off becomes a terrifying monster rather than a generic mook.

        My idea is to have mechanics which involve no math beyond arithmetic and take less than five minutes per action. Thanks to the user who recommended PyNomo, I can quickly make nomograms that give graphical approximations of complex equations like Elo or a discrete form of Lanchester’s Linear Law. I also found a protocol for making graphical scoring systems to represent regressions using R. Hopefully that will allow me to represent complex information in a straightforward way.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          But I also feel that grounded mechanics can throw fantastical elements into harsher relief. E.g., if a knife in the gut is actually a deadly threat, the zombie who shugs it off becomes a terrifying monster rather than a generic mook.

          Heh, undead HP/damage in Dungeons & Dragons is pretty odd, isn’t it?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Call of Cthulhu has the SIZ stat, which contributes to HP and damage bonus.

          In the games I play, a knife in the guts is usually pretty bad. I’m running a lot of the new Delta Green lately, and the average human being is going to be in serious trouble if they take 10 points of damage, maybe even dead.

          I wish it was easier to make D&D work with the division of actual hit points and “vitality” like the d20 Star Wars did.

          5 minutes per action seems pretty long – like, per combat action?

          • bean says:

            I wish it was easier to make D&D work with the division of actual hit points and “vitality” like the d20 Star Wars did.

            That was the best rule! I started with d20 Star Wars, and I’ve always found it odd that Vitality/Wounds isn’t more widely used, because it’s the perfect system for mild cinematic play. Characters get more resistant as the get experience, but they also have a clear distinction between near misses and actual hits. Although now that think about it, certain types of ablative DR in GURPS work pretty much the same.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            In the games I play, a knife in the guts is usually pretty bad. I’m running a lot of the new Delta Green lately, and the average human being is going to be in serious trouble if they take 10 points of damage, maybe even dead.

            An RPG can make humans unrealistically vulnerable to wounds in the name of realism. For small arms, each bullet has about a 5% chance of being fatal. Julius Caesar took 23 knife wounds to assassinate, etc.
            Of course you’re going to need emergency healing after taking a wound, but it’s not like Hollywood where one bullet anywhere in the torso lets Indy safely turn his back on his opponent.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I hadn’t heard of Delta Green. It looks interesting even though I never really got into Call of Cthulhu.

            5 minutes per action seems pretty long – like, per combat action?

            In 3.5e and Pathfinder five minutes per turn is actually a pretty brisk pace, and that’s what I cut my teeth on. I don’t expect to be as fast as Dungeon World but if I can beat D&D that’s good enough.

            Edited to add:

            An RPG can make humans unrealistically vulnerable to wounds in the name of realism. For small arms, each bullet has about a 5% chance of being fatal. Julius Caesar took 23 knife wounds to assassinate, etc.

            The one I’ve been playing around with is based on medical trauma classifications.

            So for edged weapons the stats I was looking at break it down as ~60% minor wounds (slashes), ~30% major wounds and ~10% devastating wounds. An average person should be able to survive seventy five minor wounds, five major wounds, or one devastating wound.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean

            Plus, critical hits went straight to the “real” hit points, and mooks only had the real ones anyway. It seemed like a good system, and made explicit what’s sort of hinted at with HP as in D&D – that it represents ability to avoid blows as much as get hit with them more.

            @Le Maistre Chat

            In my mind/game, each attack is abstracted a little – could be one well-placed bullet or knife thrust, could be a flurry of stabs/shots, whatever.

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Ah, I thought you meant 5 minutes per player/NPC action. Like, I attack, roll my attack, then 5 minutes of number crunching. Then you go. Then each goblin goes. 5 minutes a turn is pretty quick. I try to keep a faster pace than that, but I usually run stuff where the combat rules are pretty light.

          • John Schilling says:

            For small arms, each bullet has about a 5% chance of being fatal. Julius Caesar took 23 knife wounds to assassinate, etc. […] it’s not like Hollywood where one bullet anywhere in the torso lets Indy safely turn his back on his opponent.

            You’re talking about two different things here; lethality and “stopping power”. The latter being an ill-defined term, but >>5% of small-arms bullets will reduce an adversary to a state where it is safe to turn your back on them, even if they aren’t dead or dying.

            And note that motivation plays a significant role in stopping power, making it not unrealistic for PCs to have more hit points / vitality than mooks. The military at least used to recognize a distinction between stopping power vs. an attacker (who will generally just stop attacking and let his comrades carry on) and a defender (whose back may be literally to the wall). A mook who stops fighting after being shot/stabbed/whatever isn’t going to be killed; a PC probably will be.

          • Anonymous says:

            @bean

            That was the best rule! I started with d20 Star Wars, and I’ve always found it odd that Vitality/Wounds isn’t more widely used, because it’s the perfect system for mild cinematic play. Characters get more resistant as the get experience, but they also have a clear distinction between near misses and actual hits.

            As implemented via the Unearthed Arcana variant rule (I have no idea how close that is to d20 Star Wars), Vitality/Wounds just introduces a lot more instant gank potential. Especially for the player characters. Any monster that does appreciable amounts of HP damage becomes a dire threat. The CR 3 Ogre, while normally a mook except at very low levels, becomes something that can one-shot you if you have Constitution 16 or so. Good luck being stunned for 1d4 rounds, making a DC 15 Fortitude check to not start dying, being disabled in any case and risk dying for any standard action. High Fortitude helps, but you’re pretty much screwed.

            Vitality/Wounds doesn’t so much offer “cinematic gameplay” as Shadowrun-like “who shoots first, wins” style of play. I’d expect the PCs to use only Scythes, Kukris, Scitimars, Rapiers and Falchions among the weapons, because those are the deadliest under the system, owing to their high critical stats. And for everyone who can to take Improved Critical.

          • Randy M says:

            Julius Caesar took 23 knife wounds to assassinate, etc.

            More accurate to say that 23 knife wounds were used. Brutus’ final blow may have been unnecessary for the actual act of killing, as well as some number of the earlier 22.

            5 minutes per action seems pretty long – like, per combat action?

            In 3.5e and Pathfinder five minutes per turn is actually a pretty brisk pace, and that’s what I cut my teeth on.

            5 minutes a turn is different from 5 minutes per action. The D&D turn includes assessing the situation, deciding on an action, possibly moving or taking some minor action, and then taking the action (including making sure of all the relevant math, etc.). And the length of turns in high level 3.5 D&D is not universally regarded as a feature–from what I gather, a lot of players stick to lower levels where the pace is quicker.
            If you meant all of a character turn in combat is done in five minutes for the average player, that’s fine. If you mean out of combat actions, or just the resolution of a punch… that’s asking a lot, imo. [edit: should have read the whole thread. Count as agreement with dndrsn]

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And the length of turns in high level 3.5 D&D is not universally regarded as a feature–from what I gather, a lot of players stick to lower levels where the pace is quicker.

            I DMed a 3.5 campaign set during Greek mythology from level 1 to 22, and combats could be unfun at every level. The problem was the initiative system: the players were trying to coordinate their actions, but didn’t know when each enemy would get to go until Round 2, when they could game the predictable initiative order. And initiative was extremely important, because anything that drops to 0 HP immediately stops fighting. I’d have been so much happier with a system where everyone on the heroes’s side could go simultaneously, then all enemies got to make a counter-attack that round even if they went down that round. Which is more believable anyway, “the dead man’s ten seconds” and all.

          • Nornagest says:

            Initiative is one of the clunkier parts of D&D combat. It’s super important, but a single bad roll can cripple you for an entire encounter because there’s no way (at least, in core rules) to take initiative once the fight’s started.

            On the other hand, the last thing the system needs is another dice roll that everyone has to take every round, so I’m not sure what a better way to do this would be.

          • Randy M says:

            I wonder why there’s no abilities that affect initiative, outside of delaying moving it later. My guess is that lots of groups have slow down after turns determining when the next turn is and they don’t want to add to that.

            I haven’t found initiative to be so critical, but I play mostly (brace yourself) 4th edition, where no character is likely to be taken out in one round of combat–barring alpha strikes with dailies, which actually probably is pretty common. I just don’t have players so tactically minded, perhaps.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Like I said, go by side, with creatures on the side that goes second still getting a counter-attack if dropped to 0 HP or below that round.

          • Nornagest says:

            Like I said, go by side, with creatures on the side that goes second still getting a counter-attack if dropped to 0 HP or below that round.

            Might not be a bad way of doing it. The simulationist in me and the martial artist in me do think that it makes sense to have some mechanical recognition of initiative or tempo or whatever you want to call it, since it’s really important in real-world fighting — nerds will tell you that it doesn’t make any sense since the characters are making the same number of attacks, but really, even though physically fit people can only swing a sword or throw a punch so fast, at any given time there’s usually one person who’s acting and one person who’s reacting and that’s very often what decides the winner. But D&D is full of abstractions, and the game designer in me thinks it might be worth streamlining this away since there are plenty of other mechanical representations of character skill.

          • John Schilling says:

            My take is that if you’re simulating combat on a scale where this sort of initiative matters, it should be an emergent property of the mechanics rather than an arbitrary “X has initiative, therefore has the following advantages”.

            It isn’t necessary and arguably isn’t appropriate to track every single blow in simulated combat. I don’t recall offhand whether (A)D&D used six-second or ten-second turns, but the “to-hit roll” was clearly meant to be the probability of scoring a damaging hit with one of the several attacks that would be attempted in such a period. And if that’s the case, the other guy’s “next” turn is presumably the outcome of the attacks he was making during the same period that you were mostly missing but managed one hit. Even strict simulationism would allow him those attacks, possibly at a modest penalty.

            And if your combat model is going to be “attack roll – defense roll – damage roll, lather rinse repeat”, that’s going to be real boring, real fast, so yes, go aggregate multiple attacks over ten seconds or whatever in a single roll. And, possibly modulo a first-round advantage for surprise, initiative is probably going to average out over that timescale and with such a simple model.

            If you’re going to do a finer-grained resolution of combat, then initiative should be clearly visible, important, and as I said emergent. If a character’s normal turn-actions are an attack or a defense but not both, then character X using every action to deliver an attack against which Y must defend or suffer great harm, then as they exchange turns it will be obvious that X has the initiative. If there’s a thing Y can do to avoid needing to defend every turn (watching X flub an attack, offering a partial defense that doesn’t consume an action, taking the hit), and then deliver an attack against which X must spend a turn defending, then Y will have the initiative. Someone has to go first, but after a few exchanges of action it probably won’t matter who that was – initiative emerges from the tactical options and relative capabilities rather than being an arbitrary quality that one character has and the other doesn’t.

            GURPS had something that could approach such a dynamic, but the default of giving every player an attack and an active defense every round weakened it.

        • CatCube says:

          PyNomo

          Yaaay! I’m helping.

          I hadn’t realized when I posted the link that the support and documentation has sort of dried up. Getting composite nomograms to look good takes a lot of fiddling with proportionality constants, and the documentation doesn’t really tell you exactly how they function. It took some fiddling to get the couple that I built for a problem at work as a test to come out (I did it at home, not on the taxpayer dime!), but I finally managed it. However, I’m still not totally confident that I understand all the parameters and how they fit together, so it’s kind of “bash it with a rock until it works”.

          Elo or a discrete form of Lanchester’s Linear Law

          For the Elo system, I’m trying to imagine how that would work in an RPG. Does the NPC have an Elo rating, which you compare to the PC’s Elo to find “here’s the chance of victory”, then throw a d20? E.g., the Elo comparison means you have a 10% chance of victory, so you need to throw at least a 19?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            For the Elo system, I’m trying to imagine how that would work in an RPG. Does the NPC have an Elo rating, which you compare to the PC’s Elo to find “here’s the chance of victory”, then throw a d20? E.g., the Elo comparison means you have a 10% chance of victory, so you need to throw at least a 19?

            More or less.

            If a skill rank of 5 corresponds to an Elo of 2000 and a skill rank of 6 corresponds to an Elo of 2100, then you can determine the percentage chance of winning pretty easily. Then that percentage can be directly turned into a d100 target number.

            I also played around with the idea of using the Elo difference as a challenge rating to determine experience gained. But it’s a bit fiddly and also doesn’t make much sense logically.

            When you update your Elo in chess, that works because it’s only an imperfect approximation of your actual chess skill. If your skill was determined by your Elo you would never need to update it. It only makes sense if you’re actually measuring player skill.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Taller usually means greater reach, which is an advantage, but it seems like it’s easier to deal with a reach advantage than a weight advantage.

        There’s also the fact that height is highly correlated with weight, so if there’s already a weight class, extra height comes with a tradeoff.

    • Nornagest says:

      I think I’d start by looking for sabermetrics-style statistics for boxing, wrestling, and judo.

      It’s gonna be a lot harder once you get weapons involved, though; qualitatively speaking all weapons make height and weight less important, but the quantitative effects vary tremendously with style and type of weapon. Even in something like Olympic fencing, which has only subtle differences in rules between weapons and where weapon weight has basically no effect (they’re all light enough to whip around like nothing), you see noticeable physical differences on average between epeeists (tall and lanky), foilists (about average, but tending to quick and skinny) and sabreurs (stockier and aggressive).

      • dndnrsn says:

        I don’t know that sabermetrics style statistics exist – combat sports usually see people compete much less than, say, a baseball team does. The UFC loves to throw statistics on the screen in the runup to fights, but it’s largely meaningless to say “he stops 67% of takedowns!” because, well, vs who? Baseball is far more quantifiable.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Actually the book that I don’t want to buy is based analyzing MMA statistics in exactly that way. I just balk at paying for it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What book?

            I find myself wondering what data it uses. If you look at an American baseball team, or the players on it, you can see their stats against other major league teams, say. The best major league team is not light years ahead of the worst: the best win-loss record of any season is just over .75.

            In comparison, in MMA, where people can pad their records, promotions make favourable matchups for fighters who bring in the fans, etc. Someone who wins 3 times for every 1 loss against top competition is good, but not great.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Ah, I vaguely remember seeing that book on Amazon way back when. looking at the description, it says “Using data ‎from hundreds of fights” and I think that is an issue. In baseball, every season includes over 2,400 individual games, and that’s before the postseason. In addition to the fact that you can’t pad your record or have preferable matchups in baseball. It might be interesting to look at MMA statistically, but the numbers aren’t there – the UFC has put on around 400 events, and even if every event had 12 fights, that’s still as many matches over almost 25 years as MLB puts on games in 2.

    • I don’t have any literature to point you at, but I suggest that it depends a good deal on the nature of the fight. To take an extreme example, if it’s with rifles at reasonably long range, being large is a disadvantage, since it makes you a better target.

      The martial art I am most familiar with is SCA combat, which is a not very good attempt at medieval foot combat. There are advantages to strength and speed, but size is pretty ambiguous–there have been successful small fighters as well as successful large ones. Part of the reason may be that our rules don’t allow grappling–one of the unrealistic features. My impression is that attempts at the same thing that do allow grappling are more heavily biased in favor of large fighters.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Comparing boxing – which doesn’t include grappling outside of fighters pushing the holding as much as the ref will allow – to MMA – which does, I think it shows that size matters more for striking than grappling. In boxing, it seems more common for people to go up in weight class than down, while in MMA, people are far more likely to go down. This is even the case considering that it’s easier to go up a weight class than down: you just cut less and maybe eat more.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Striking to inflict damage is going to reward size a lot. Striking to score points, less so.

          SCA combat seems to be in between: you’re trying to judge how much damage the blows would have done, had they been delivered with a real weapon. But I doubt this subjective judgment will accurately reward size.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Damage is still pretty important in boxing. But at the high levels, people’s defence gets so good, that even when it’s a mismatch and some guy paid to lose gets the brakes beaten off him, it’s still likely to be a decision, or a stoppage late in the fight. Often a stoppage where the loser wants to keep going (and in MMA, could – he’d be on the ground eating punches) but the ref stops it.

        • Nornagest says:

          I think that’s true. Especially height; it’s a definite advantage in striking, but decidedly mixed in grappling and especially in groundwork.

    • carvenvisage says:

      Bear in mind that in sport fighting lots of attacks are banned that would otherwise make up close grappling dangerous. No groin knees, eye gouging, or finger breaking, just for some obvious ones that require no training or knowledge. In that kind of environment you can expect strength to be a huge factor because ways to do damage lacking it have been removed.

      Why go directly from weight to fighting capability? Isn’t weight basically a proxy for strength, in which case you could look up what people at different weight classes can lift? It strikes me like profiling competitive eaters by BMI instead of weight (or stomach size).

      Kind of surprised nothing definitive came up with a quick google, but maybe some of this could be used:

      https://www.reddit.com/r/MMA/comments/4fircp/i_have_created_a_complete_spreadsheet_of_every/

      Dunno if this is still updated, and it doesn’t have the weights of the fighters, but it has a lot of results and you could maybe use their current weight as a proxy for their weight at the time? Though note that they cut weight before the fight (the case in most weight class combat sports iirc) so tbh it can be kind of inaccurate. Could maybe compare everyone who weighs in at max weight vs who weighs in below, because coming in under weight is a cap. Maybe there’s a database of ‘walking around weight’ somewhere?

      https://www.reddit.com/r/ufc/comments/47a674/all_fighters_and_all_fights_spreadsheet/

      This looks kinda similar, again no weight included.

      http://boxrec.com/
      http://www.fightmetric.com/

      maybe one of those sites has something. Latter one says something about academic access

      • dndnrsn says:

        I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that groin attacks, eye attacks, small joint manipulation, etc require no training or knowledge. Everything requires training – someone who trains to do x is going to do x better than someone who doesn’t. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to train those things “live” because your sparring partners only have two eyes. Lots of traditional martial arts developed ostensibly lethal attacks too dangerous to practice live, and built katas around them. By and large, they get absolutely wrecked by practitioners of martial arts that train live and thus limit the training to stuff you can actually spar with. (Within that, grapplers spar a lot more and a lot harder than strikers – and one could tie that into the general dominance of grappling over striking in MMA, with striker-who-learned-to-grapple being much less common than vice versa – although the greater pay available in boxing over MMA and kickboxing over grappling probably has to do with that also).

        Of course, once you’re talking about stuff that’s only “street legal” a knife is far, far, far more of a threat than “what if he pokes me in the eye”. The answer to “well, what happens when there’s not a ref” isn’t “super legal secret techniques” it’s “he’s got a knife and a few friends”.

        • carvenvisage says:

          I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that groin attacks, eye attacks, small joint manipulation, etc require no training or knowledge.

          The will to use them can be acquired by training. but doesn’t have to be, and knowledge doesn’t come that much into it.

          Everything requires training – someone who trains to do x is going to do x better than someone who doesn’t.

          This is innacurate pedantry. ‘Doesn’t Require’ doesn’t mean ‘can’t be improved by’. Running is something people can naturally do, and yet people who train hard at it get better than people who don’t. Checkmate atheists. *rolls eyes in exasperation*.

          Lots of traditional martial arts developed ostensibly lethal attacks too dangerous to practice live, and built katas around them. By and large, they get absolutely wrecked by practitioners of martial arts that train live and thus limit the training to stuff you can actually spar with.

          This is wrong in a couple of ways. Firstly, the obvious insulting one that the exact supposed edge we’re talking about is banned in the competitions you’re referencing. (did you seriously just?) Secondly, most modern martial arts are massively removed from the time when they were developed, so you’re usually comparing amateurs from McDojos to serious full time fighters. *People who don’t train live aren’t serious ‘martial artists’*. This is like saying olympic sport fencing is a real swordfight simulation because lots of HEMA guys are more interested in history than the gym. 1. that’s a non-sequitur, just insane moon logic 2. No, it’s just something people are more serious about, that has nothing to do with what the mechanics of the environment favours 3. The olympic fencers never claimed that.

          Thirdly/lastly, I.. don’t remember singing the praises of any traditional martial arts. What does your TMA hobby horse actually have to do with the ruleset of modern MMA? I have no idea if all the technical stuff they get up to in aikido is dangerous to a rampaging (uncooperative) fighter, I just (100%) know that in an anything-goes gladiatorial unarmed fight wrestling is a lot more dangerous to use for simple mechanical reasons.

          Like, you can see, just by watching a UFC fight, people putting themselves in position to be kneed in the groin, letting people rest their hand on their face, not keeping their fingers close to themselves. Have you seen the BJJ guys who lie down waiting for people to come get them. -You think that has nothing to do with stomps being banned? You can’t even hit people in the back of the head, of course it’s not a direct simulation of unarmed gladiatorial combat. (and it’s not defending its honour to imply that it is)

          Of course, once you’re talking about stuff that’s only “street legal” a knife is far, far, far more of a threat than “what if he pokes me in the eye”. The answer to “well, what happens when there’s not a ref” isn’t “super legal secret techniques” it’s “he’s got a knife and a few friends”.

          Well, yeah, the further you get from the environment set up for people to test their strength, the more non raw-strength based things you have to worry about. Not sure what we’re disagreeing about here, except that I might accidentally have said something vaguely interpretable as positive about your local oriental-history-themed fitness club.

          An eye gouge is not an eye poke btw. The eye is a ball and you can get your fingers in behind it. If I get up close and wrastle someone I’d be more worried about a knife, but between getting stabbed in the torso and having my eyes ripped out or crushed I think I’d find the latter more disabling. Stabbing people is surely easier psychologically though. As for breaking fingers and knees to the groin, how exactly are those secret techniques?

          But yeah In any case they’re all reasons to avoid the place where superior strength can be most directly applied, so the same principle applies. Raw strength is less relevant in a gun fight, less so in a sword fight, etc, right down to UFC, (and on through to arm wrestling and weightlifting). No argument from me there.

          Btw, point of order, the first UFC was in fact won by super secret techniques. They became standardised techniques afterwards, but at the point where we’d never tested them (like the point we’re at now with banned manouvers) they *were in fact super secret esoteric techniques*. (and note that this was a case of a serious martial art used for defence, like old ones used to be when they were real martial arts).

          TL:DR TMA vs MMA has nothing to do with it, it’s just a fact that MMA’s rule set favours wrestling. You can’t even grab the fence. And your local fitness clubs branding is between you and your Sifu.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The will to use them can be acquired by training. but doesn’t have to be, and knowledge doesn’t come that much into it.

          This is innacurate pedantry. ‘Doesn’t Require’ doesn’t mean ‘can’t be improved by’. Running is something people can naturally do, and yet people who train hard at it get better than people who don’t. Checkmate atheists. *rolls eyes in exasperation*.

          People who train at anything get so much better than people who don’t train. Everyone who is any good at running trains to run. People tend to understimate just how better than a random person off the street even a quality amateur is.

          This is wrong in a couple of ways. Firstly, the obvious insulting one that the exact supposed edge we’re talking about is banned in the competitions you’re referencing. (did you seriously just?) Secondly, most modern martial arts are massively removed from the time when they were developed, so you’re usually comparing amateurs from McDojos to serious full time fighters. *People who don’t train live aren’t serious ‘martial artists’*. This is like saying olympic sport fencing is a real swordfight simulation because lots of HEMA guys are more interested in history than the gym. 1. that’s a non-sequitur, just insane moon logic 2. No, it’s just something people are more serious about, that has nothing to do with what the mechanics of the environment favours 3. The olympic fencers never claimed that.

          The getting wrecked I reference isn’t in MMA competition. But, hey, I guess nobody has ever pitted ostensibly too-dangerous-to-train-live techniques against a judoka, wrestler, boxer, etc, right?

          Thirdly/lastly, I.. don’t remember singing the praises of any traditional martial arts. What does your TMA hobby horse actually have to do with the ruleset of modern MMA? I have no idea if all the technical stuff they get up to in aikido is dangerous to a rampaging (uncooperative) fighter, I just (100%) know that in an anything-goes gladiatorial unarmed fight wrestling is a lot more dangerous to use for simple mechanical reasons.

          Hobby horse? Wha? This is the first time I’ve mentioned this in probably a year. Not much of a hobby horse. “Traditional martial arts” is where you find most of the claims of “you can only train this in kata because it’s so dangerous.” There are also more recent, non-traditional martial arts with a healthy serving of that too. Lots of effortless knife disarms performed on a willing partner.

          Like, you can see, just by watching a UFC fight, people putting themselves in position to be kneed in the groin, letting people rest their hand on their face, not keeping their fingers close to themselves. Have you seen the BJJ guys who lie down waiting for people to come get them. -You think that has nothing to do with stomps being banned? You can’t even hit people in the back of the head, of course it’s not a direct simulation of unarmed gladiatorial combat. (and it’s not defending its honour to imply that it is)

          Except that there were guys who did that in Pride, which allowed stomps. Stomping wasn’t the be-all-end-all that some people think it was. Nor soccer kicks, nor knees to the head of a downed opponent. And “no shots to the back of the head” is one of the least enforced rules in MMA. Heck, the rules against eye pokes and groin shots are barely enforced – and plenty of people have taken one or both of those and won the fight.

          Well, yeah, the further you get from the environment set up for people to test their strength, the more non raw-strength based things you have to worry about. Not sure what we’re disagreeing about here, except that I might accidentally have said something vaguely interpretable as positive about your local oriental-history-themed fitness club.

          My position is that hours on the mat in live training > techniques that one hasn’t actually been able to practice against a resisting opponent because they’re too dangerous, or techniques that haven’t been practiced at all. In cases where those techniques are gonna get used, in any case, people generally just go straight for weapons anyway.

          An eye gouge is not an eye poke btw. The eye is a ball and you can get your fingers in behind it. If I get up close and wrastle someone I’d be more worried about a knife, but between getting stabbed in the torso and having my eyes ripped out or crushed I think I’d find the latter more disabling. Stabbing people is surely easier psychologically though. As for breaking fingers and knees to the groin, how exactly are those secret techniques?

          I was being sarcastic. Teaching techniques that can’t be practiced live usually goes hand in hand with claims of secrecy, mystical or otherwise.

          But yeah In any case they’re all reasons to avoid the place where superior strength can be most directly applied, so the same principle applies. Raw strength is less relevant in a gun fight, less so in a sword fight, etc, right down to UFC, (and on through to arm wrestling and weightlifting). No argument from me there.

          Do groin attacks, eye gouges, etc privilege strength over boxing, wrestling, BJJ, whatever? It seems to me that most realistic women’s self defence stuff focuses on groin or eye attacks then run away rather than trying to stand and bang or go for the takedown.

          Btw, point of order, the first UFC was in fact won by super secret techniques. They became standardised techniques afterwards, but at the point where we’d never tested them (like the point we’re at now with banned manouvers) they *were in fact super secret esoteric techniques*. (and note that this was a case of a serious martial art used for defence, like old ones used to be when they were real martial arts).

          BJJ was hardly super-secret, nor had it not been tested in real fights. The Gracie Challenge preceded the UFC, and by some accounts the Gracie guys spend most of the middle 20th century going around getting into scuffles on beaches. BJJ was obscure in the US, sure, but the major reason that the first UFC didn’t feature anybody who knew how to deal with that kind of ground game was that the early UFC was pretty close to an informercial for BJJ. What were they gonna do, bring in a judoka? You can pick up judo instructionals from the 50s and 60s and see a good chunk of what still makes up bread-and-butter BJJ; not super secret by any stretch of the imagination.

          TL:DR TMA vs MMA has nothing to do with it, it’s just a fact that MMA’s rule set favours wrestling. You can’t even grab the fence. And your local fitness clubs branding is between you and your Sifu.

          There was at least one UFC where grabbing the cage was legal – it effectively stopped takedowns, but it didn’t allow the person to get off any offence either.

          EDIT: We’re getting a little heated here. I’m not saying that eye gouges or whatever don’t work. But they’d probably need training of some sort to be applied effectively, and the kata or kata-facsimile sort of training you see in both a lot of traditional martial arts and a lot of self-defence stuff isn’t a good way of teaching anything. I’m not sure how you’d effectively train someone to gouge eyes or break fingers, but it wouldn’t look like “he does this, then you do this, then he…” and in any case the person learning it would do well to take judo or something where they practice against an actually-resisting opponent so they know what that’s like.

          • carvenvisage says:

            EDIT: Just saw your edit. I agree with everything you said there.

            People who train at anything get so much better than people who don’t train. Everyone who is any good at running trains to run. People tend to understimate just how better than a random person off the street even a quality amateur is.

            But nevertheless, if you quadrupled the size of the cage/ring it would change the nature of the fight, even against fighters who don’t specifically train running, because someone doesn’t have to be in the top few percent of something for including it as an option to change the nature of a game.

            The getting wrecked I reference isn’t in MMA competition. But, hey, I guess nobody has ever pitted ostensibly too-dangerous-to-train-live techniques against a judoka, wrestler, boxer, etc, right?

            Based on the sentence structure, I thought you were referring to traditional martial artists rather than their one inch death punches-

            lots of traditional martial arts developed ostensibly lethal attacks too dangerous to practice live, and built katas around them. By and large, they get absolutely wrecked by practitioners of martial arts that train live and thus limit the training to stuff you can actually spar with.

            If you meant the techniques, I think that’s because mostly they were cooked up in recreational fitness clubs rather than places serious about fighting. -A willingness to do certain things isn’t like a gun, it doesn’t make you into a fighter. My point is that recognising this fact doesn’t mean it’s a complete non factor either.

            About the vitalnesss of live training. I agree that actual practice is really important, but I think it’s most important to keeping your general physical capabilities sharp, ‘staying in the game’, and less so for specific techniques, -at least in the case of intuitive things. (maybe less so with BJJ).

            (Did someone teach chuck liddell to punch like that? haha)

            I think you probably could actually train that in live sparring with some creativity, maybe a helmet get up.

            Thought experiment: imagine you’re fighting someone who you’re evenly matched with in sparring, except for one minor change, there’s no gloves, and they’re programmed to try and rip your eyes out if you give them the chance. Would your first person reaction be that it doesn’t change how you have to think about the fight because they can’t have trained it in live sparring (or indeed at all). I would be way more wary of getting close to someone. I think If it was impossible to apply training in one situation to slightly dissimiliar ones, people would never have sparred with non-sharp swords, or for that matter at less than full contact, or with helmets, -i.e. that the general physical ability you build up by engaging in its practice can be applied to things you haven’t specifically practiced.

            Hobby horse? Wha? This is the first time I’ve mentioned this in probably a year. Not much of a hobby horse.

            That was my lets say ‘eloquent’ way of saying I thought TMAs had anything to do with my ‘mechanical’ commentary.

            “Traditional martial arts” is where you find most of the claims of “you can only train this in kata because it’s so dangerous.” There are also more recent, non-traditional martial arts with a healthy serving of that too. Lots of effortless knife disarms performed on a willing partner.

            I was perhaps-lazily grouping this with TMAs.

            Except that there were guys who did that in Pride, which allowed stomps. Stomping wasn’t the be-all-end-all that some people think it was. Nor soccer kicks, nor knees to the head of a downed opponent. And “no shots to the back of the head” is one of the least enforced rules in MMA. Heck, the rules against eye pokes and groin shots are barely enforced – and plenty of people have taken one or both of those and won the fight.

            People do get away with this stuff more than they should, but it’s not the same as if anyone can freely go to town on people. About stomps, not the the be all and end all, but I think surely a factor.

            Maybe that one in particular is less relevant than I think, but I know I’d be more comfortable in that position, and there were stomping KOs.

            Here’s a funny example of how comfortable people get extending into certain positions and not watching for certain threats. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l8jABw4sR8.

            Regarding eye pokes and groin shots, they have to be hidden and surreptitious (or accidental), which I think makes them far less forceful. People probably wouldn’t bother sneaking in hidden half eye-pokes and eye-grazes if there was no advantage to be gained there, nor would there be a *recovery period* built into the rules. (also, eye gouges!)

            My position is that hours on the mat in live training > techniques that one hasn’t actually been able to practice against a resisting opponent because they’re too dangerous.

            ‘Techniques’ makes it sound so complicated to me. Monkeys figure this stuff out for themselves. If someone has an aptitude for fighting, I just don’t think they’d need any training at all (additional), let alone live training, for ‘no holds barred’ to be a factor, because I don’t think handing someone a weapon is ever a disadvantage, except in cases of gross incompetence. (Especially when people are so acclimatised not to have to worry about those things)

            In cases where those techniques are gonna get used, in any case, people generally just go straight for weapons anyway.

            Carrying even a knife is illegal many places. (including where I live)

            Do groin attacks, eye gouges, etc privilege strength over boxing, wrestling, BJJ, whatever? It seems to me that most realistic women’s self defence stuff focuses on groin or eye attacks then run away rather than trying to stand and bang or go for the takedown.

            I’m saying their absence puts strength more at the forefront, not less so. Assuming that’s a typo.

            That’s probably because we’re talking about women who mostly aren’t training heavily and might not be that gung ho to deliver a coup de gras, not because temporarily disabling someone isn’t an advantage.

            BJJ was hardly super-secret, nor had it not been tested in real fights.

            Well, It was super secret to me at least. Like, it occupied much the same mystical social position, even if it wasn’t actually a secret.

            the major reason that the first UFC didn’t feature anybody who knew how to deal with that kind of ground game was that the early UFC was pretty close to an informercial for BJJ.

            My point is that if we’re talking about whether exotic techniques you might dismiss as too fancy (‘super secret techniques’) can win fights, answer is that they can, but I guess that just comes down to the definition/what is meant.

            (lots of people thought differently at the time, and probably most people don’t have any practice dealing with small joint voodoo)

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m gonna condense a few points because it’s breaking down to a lot of quote boxes.

            a. a larger cage does make a difference. WEC used a smaller cage, and it meant there wasn’t the effect you get with the smallest weight classes where a cage that’s sized for bigger guys is like a Siberian expanse of retreating room. Grabbing the cage, when it happened, helped stop takedowns, but it made a few fights boring, rather than being a decisive factor. I don’t know what it would look like now that the clinching-against-the-cage game is so much more developed.

            b. granted, going to McDojo TMA stuff was a bridge too far. However, places serious about fighting are training their nut shot game or whatever – which is a different thing from your original statement, which was that these things required no training. Of course nothing requires training – but someone who trains to eye gouge is going to be much, much better at eye gouging than someone who says “that BJJ stuff ain’t real; if I ever got caught in onea them chokeholds I’d just gouge his eyes”. If I got in a fight with someone who knew how to gouge eyes or break fingers effectively – I assume there’s a trick or two involved, because nothing is an “I win” button – I’d be worried. I’m not worried about getting in a fight with someone who has no idea of how to fight, because they might try to eye gouge me, or do something else they don’t know how to do under pressure – because I’d be exactly as good at eye gouging as them, plus I know other stuff that they don’t. Similarly, I’d be way more worried about a guy who knows how to box trying to punch me than a guy who is aware of how to make a fist – people who don’t know how to punch beat people to death all the time, but if faced with the choice of a fistfight with a guy who knows how to box and a guy who doesn’t, the choice is clear. The guys in the UFC who are prone to eye pokes and nut shots and blows to the back of the head kinda-sorta train for them, too – a kick to the nuts isn’t much different from a leg or teep kick, and punching someone in the back of the head just requires not trying to avoid the back of the head.

            c. But in a real fight, the risk of “random guy who doesn’t know how to fight tries eye gouging” is much less real than the risk of “he’s got a few buddies” or “oh shit where’d he get that knife” or “oh no I took him down and he hit the back of his neck on the corner of something and this is not gonna look good fuck I’m going to jail.” Of the things I worry about happening if shit gets real, someone who doesn’t know how to fight trying to eye gouge me isn’t that high on the list.

            d. I thought you were saying that having those things available advantages strength more than not having them available. You said “In that kind of environment you can expect strength to be a huge factor because ways to do damage lacking it have been removed.” Also, with regard to “That’s because we’re talking about women who mostly aren’t willing to do serious training (and probably don’t want to deliver a coup de gras).” – a random guy who doesn’t know how to eye gouge properly or whatever isn’t someone who’s willing to train seriously, and from what I understand most people in real-deal combat situations find that their willingness to do nasty things to another person is less than they thought it would be.

            e. BJJ was exotic and obscure, but at its heart it’s just a spinoff of judo, and judo was not obscure in the US by the 90s. It wasn’t mystical (in the sense of “some guy on a mountain taught me this; ya gotta focus your chi” – upper middle class Brazilian guys whose grandfather got taught some judo and developed a ground game based form of it aren’t monks) or presented as super-secret in the “secular sense” (eg “I got taught this in the special forces. Which special forces? I can’t tell you. Classified.”) And judo was developed by a schoolteacher/educational administrator who stripped traditional jijitsu of a lot of the woo, techniques you couldn’t train live, and stuff that was intended for when you and the other guy in armour both lost your swords. Very little mystical there.

            f. What is “an aptitude for fighting”? That special something that makes a person really willing to harm another human being? Yeah, that would be an advantage in a real fight. But someone with that aptitude is more dangerous if they’ve learned to fight than if they haven’t. With regard to monkeys, animals do a great deal of play-fighting, and I suppose if you could get monkeys to train they’d be better at fighting than monkeys who can’t. Similarly, imagine how strong a gorilla would be if you got it to lift weights three times a week.

          • Aapje says:

            @carvenvisage

            That’s probably because we’re talking about women who mostly aren’t training heavily and might not be that gung ho to deliver a coup de gras, not because temporarily disabling someone isn’t an advantage.

            Delivering a ‘coup de grâce’ is really not that easy, especially since many people will be covering up their face if they go down. Real fights also tend to involve adrenaline dumps, which along with other changes, increases awareness, but inhibits complex thinking. So people generally revert to simple acts (basic punching & kicking and such), not being capable of recognizing that a complex attack may be more effective.

            Common techniques in MMA are to apply heavy punches, do a choke or simply to lay on top of someone to disable them. All of these tend to be hard for women, because these techniques strongly favor arm strength, length and weight, all of which women tend to lack compared to men. So even if a woman would have the wherewithal to try them, she would likely fail at them, the man would recover and would overpower her.

            Women tend to have relatively high leg strength and low upper body strength, so female self-defense strategies should be focused heavily on kicking and even more focused on getting a man to help if possible.

          • John Schilling says:

            Delivering a ‘coup de grâce’ is really not that easy, especially since many people will be covering up their face if they go down. […] Women tend to have relatively high leg strength and low upper body strength, so female self-defense strategies should be focused heavily on kicking

            So for a simple coup de grâce requiring very little training, how effective would an average woman’s stomp-kick be, delivered to the abdomen of a downed opponent instinctively guarding his face?

          • carvenvisage says:

            re ‘coup de grace’

            My point with that was that women who train some self defence moves were being compared to guys who trained seriously as fighters, and that in Dndrsn’s own account the moves were disorienting or incapacitating, yet this was being held up as evidence *against* their effectiveness. The thing about ‘coup de grace’ is just painting a picture.

            @dndrsn

            a: Yeah so obviously different rules change how the game plays out. And those changes are much more minor than we’re discussing.

            b:

            that BJJ stuff ain’t real; if I ever got caught in onea them chokeholds I’d just gouge his eyes”

            .

            Well, again, we’re on the same page here. I never said ‘willingness to fight dirty beats being able to fight at all‘. As far as I can see that’s literally just you hopping on your hobby horse.

            Plus, that’s obviously partially true because many of those people wouldn’t attempt any such thing.

            Most people nowadays are quite removed from combat. Unlike monkeys, most of us retire from playfighting at a young age. In a lot of jobs, especially in he ‘service economy’, one’s survival priority is literally to think happy pleasant thoughts so that one can have a pleasant/welcoming demeanour as part of their job, or if not that might still be a. You can say say that ruminating over defending yourself can be actively counterproductive to survival for many people in the modern world.

            Anyway, Nabbil was talking about an RPG, a lot of which are set in much less civilised past or alternate world where the average person would be more concerned with self defence, as well as tougher, hardier, and also more exposed to brutal parts of life (e.g. having to hunt or slaughter their own meat).

            Though, Even if we compare ‘willingness to target’ to ‘basic ability to fight’, the stereotypical modern-(‘western’) person with a non physical (or less arduously physical. Perhaps dishwasing or cleaning, rather than mining or farming or digging ditches) who’s never killed an animal, (and isn’t part of a militia), -is gonna be way less attuned to that kind of brutality/violence, so what’s true for average person now might not be for the average ancient or medieval. If someone lives off animals they can see slaughtered, and the application of their own physical strength in their work, I think a lot of stuff is less unintuitive than if someone lives off their happy thoughts and smile.

            Like, even 50 years ago it seems people were more regularly getting in fights and altercations, engaging in more physical activity. e.g. My father used to have regular group fights with people in his village as a kid. Meanwhile when I was in school they literally banned us from rough games at lunch time. Which I don’t think is an uncommon experience.

            (side clarification: ‘go to town’ meant with those particular moves. Most people’s and most fighters instinct is not to do those things in a civilised professional fight, and obviously they’re trained to fight withing the ruleset in any case. They are ‘going to town’ with the things they’re allowed to do, but obviously not on illegal moves, which they could if they weren’t illegal.)

            C: Topic is RPG combat simulation though, not self defence advice for the average modern person.

            If Nabbil’s RPG is e.g. some kind of james bond or jason borne thing where unarmed scrabbles to the death are commonplace, or a post apocalyptic or prehistoric wasteland where weapons are rare but fights to the death aren’t, ..or there’s some kind of colliseum type situations, or dueling/holmgang/, where someone specifies the rules and the weapons, that would provide situations where the differences between UFC and the unarmed gladiatorial combat it’s marketed as would be applicable. Hell, maybe the system will apply to nonhumans (e.g. trolls) fighting who don’t use weapons.

            As for, e.g., a schoolyard fight where no one wants to go to jail or dishonour themselves, obviously the UFC is more like that. (which is my point.)

            d: I’m sorry I don’t get what’s confusing. Swinging blunt fists padded by gloves at each other, or wrestling, obviously takes more strength(-in-terms-of-weight) than damaging a weak point. It’s the same principle as fighting with a sword or a knife. Strength (proxied by weight) is less vital when the threshold to do damage is lower. it’s also the same basic principle as BJJ, applying leverage to a weak spot. ..Hopefully my logic is clear even if you think it’s misapplied at some point.

            e: I don’t think there’s any real disagreement here. I’m saying in terms of the average uninformed persoo, it was an esoteric/exotic martial art not distinct from any others, and you’re saying it was nothing new and if people followed the scene they might know about it. For my 2c, martial arts isn’t like nuclear research, so ‘super secret’ sounds to me like a flippant reference to exoticness or unfamiliarity rather than any genuine mountaintop monastery where they teach you to shoot fireballs.

            f: No, I’m referring to the (mechanical) skillset of fighting. e.g. disregard for pain, physical coordination, fast reaction times, quick thinking in high stress situations, ability to pull the most out of their body etc, proclivity to clash into danger rather than retreat, etc. That’s what I’m saying is the main thing built up by training.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’d note that I never said those things are ineffective, as much as cast doubt on the idea that someone who hadn’t trained in them could use them especially effectively, and on a lot of martial arts stuff that’s ostensibly about training to use them effectively. The problem with a lot of women’s self defence stuff is either that it teaches things that just don’t work (I recall a female acquaintance taking a seminar that taught something supposed to let her break a wrist grip – a male friend, not a strong guy, said “well OK does it work” and grabbed her wrist. It didn’t), don’t teach things that do work (teaching situational awareness and so on is very easily construed as victim-blaming), is done in a way that doesn’t actually teach anything (books, videos, hour-long seminars), or some combination. On the other hand similar things are true of self-defence stuff taught to men, which is often really optimistic about a guy’s ability to fight off multiple attackers, really skimpy about uncool wussy stuff like avoiding situations where a fight might break out or just saying “OK bro sorry” instead of squaring up, and sometimes ghoulish in a way that makes it seem like someone wants to get in a fight so they can tear someone’s nuts off.

            a. Certainly.

            b,c. Oh shit, not wolves! (I had a GM once who always began every campaign with “WOLVES!” and they for some reason were always way more deadly than guys in armour with weapons). Granted. Of course, your average peasant scuffle was probably one where just going absolutely ham on the other guy wasn’t encouraged – just bust his nose enough that he knows not to whistle at your wife/prize pig. Presumably, for game purposes, you’d need some way beyond player choice/GM fiat to differentiate between “peasant scuffle” and “looks like I’m biting this orc’s ear off.”

            d. I misunderstood you. I would say that in my experience BJJ people underestimate the importance of strength, and are kind of where a lot of other martial arts and sports were in the 50s and 60s – football coaches used to tell their athletes not to lift weights because it would make them slow, supposedly; judo back then was very “to fight a stronger man just use more technique” – and you’ll still get some of that in BJJ.

            e. It is semantic, but the average person even now doesn’t really know much about fighting – the average person likes watching the UFC but doesn’t like it when it goes to the ground, the average person doesn’t get why someone doesn’t just throw a big punch and knock the other guy out, etc. People know it’s a thing, but they still wouldn’t know more than that.

            f. those things are all necessary to be good at BJJ, or any martial art, but probably BJJ has “just showing up and learning the stuff” as a bigger chunk of the pie chart than most. And even non-casual TMA practice teaches stuff that’s less useful than it could be or outright detrimental, due not to katas but to the rules of competition. There are people who train extremely hard who are training for competition far more stifling than “you can’t kick the other guy in the nuts.”

    • Wander says:

      From a HEMA perspective, when it comes to swords height is an enormous, universal advantage. Here’s a good quote on it from George Silver

      Scholar: Who has the advantage in fight, of a tall man, or a man of mean stature?

      Master: The tall man has the vantage, for these causes(23): his reach being longer, and weapon unto his stature accordingly, he has thereby a shorter course with his feet to win the true place, wherein by the swift motion of his hand, he may strike or thrust home, in which time a man of mean stature cannot reach him, & by his large pace, in his true pace in his regression further, sets himself out of danger, & these are the vantages that a tall man has against any man of shorter reach than himself.

      Scholar: What vantage has a man of mean stature against a tall man?

      Master: He has none: because the true times in fight, and actions accordingly, are to be observed and done, as well by a tall man, as by a man of mean stature.

      Scholar: Why then if this is true, that tall men have the vantage against men of mean stature, it should seem in fight there is no perfection, other then this, when men of like stature, reach, & length of weapon, shall fight together, the which will seldom or never happen, but either in the length of their weapons, statures or reaches (if their swords should be of just length) some difference most commonly will be in their reaches.

      Master: Yes verily, the tall man has still the vantage, and yet the fight is perfect, although the men that shall happen to fight, shall happen to be unequal in their statures, reaches, or lengths of their weapons.

      Scholar: That can I hardly believe, unless you can tell me by art how to avoid or safely defend my self, being but a man of mean stature, against a tall man.

      Master: I will tell you. There belongs unto this art of defence only to be used with the feet, progression, regression, traversing, and treading of grounds. In any of these you playing the part of the patient, or patient agent, your feet are swifter in their motion than are the agents, because his weight and number of his feet in his coming in to win the place to strike or thrust home, are greater than yours, and therefore the true time is yours to avoid him, or safely to defend yourself. So the art is still true, and the tall man has still the vantage.

      Scholar: Yet I am not fully satisfied herein, because you tell me still that the tall man has the vantage, and notwithstanding you say the art is true, wherein then has the tall man the vantage, when by your art you can defend yourself against him?

      Master: I will satisfy you herein thus. The tall man has the vantage, he can maintain his fight, both by nature and by art, with more ease than can the man of mean stature, because the man of mean stature has thereby a further course with his feet to pass to the place, wherein he may strike or thrust home, and in winning of that place, is driven by art to come guarded under his wards to defend himself, because in the time of his coming, the tall man may have both naturally or artificially strike or thrust home, in which time, if the man of mean stature should fail in the least iota of his art, he should be in great danger of death or hurt. But the tall man can naturally(24) and safely come to the true place open, without any artificial wards at all, and therein also endanger the other, or drive him still to traverse his ground, with all the artificial skill that he has to defend himself, and all this the tall man does by reason of his length of weapon, large pace, short course, and long reach, with great safety, pleasure and ease. And for those causes the tall man has still the vantage of men of mean stature, and not withstanding the noble science of defence most perfect and good.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Hey I just wanted to thank you for this and for the other George Silver link below.

        In the system I’m playing around with being able to say “X has the advantage over Y” actually conveys a lot of information. I’m going to make a simple weapon advantage table to compliment the baseline advantage of height.

        Right now it looks like every 2″ of height difference comes out to one point of advantage or about a 100 Elo difference based on the MMA data I found. Fixing the “perfect length” for a weapon to a pollaxe, I can add additional points of advantage for weapons above and below that length in the degrees he gives. I need to play with it a bit more to make sure that a 79″ tall guy fighting barehanded isn’t the equal of a 70″ tall guy with a longsword though.

        I might also add the rapier as a joke weapon which automatically fails against any other weapon. The guy really hates rapiers!

    • baconbits9 says:

      This has been touched on to some extent, but the basic fact is that enclosing an area mitigates a ton of the advantages to being smaller. The main advantages to being smaller and faster is the ability to reject unfavorable engagements and increased stamina, this leads to long boring contests between combatants with major size discrepancies if you don’t hem them in. Once you start hemming people in to tight areas to enforce action you mitigate a lot of those advantages, which is why you end up with weight classes.

      I can’t find good information on the effects of height and weight on the likelihood of winning a fight. Ideally real fights or combat sports which don’t segregate combatants by weight class.

      One subset you might consider is heavyweight boxers. Because of the prefight measurements you should be able to get good data to start with and that is the weight class with the widest possible range possible. There are boxers on the lower circuits that weigh over 400 lbs and the heavyweight division allows boxers from 170lbs and up iirc, so you can probably get a good enough spread to develop an estimate.

      • baconbits9 says:

        For some high end examples Lewis/Holyfied had 2 fights and there was about a 30 lb difference in weight between them and Holyfied Bowe had 30lbs in difference as well.

        Holyfield actually might be a case study all on his own for you as his weight pushed up throughout his career going from light (205 lbs in the first Bowe fight) to average (217 in the 2nd Lewis fight) in his career.

        Also Holyfield/Foreman had a 49 lb weight difference.

      • Protagoras says:

        The heavyweight class in boxing can provide evidence that larger size is an advantage (as can the fact that boxers are largely permitted to fight above their weight class, but rarely do so and more rarely do so successfully). But it doesn’t seem it can do much to quantify the exact size of the advantage, which is what seems to be desired here. There are too many confounding factors. Different kinds of fighting are sure to be affected in different ways by size, so it’s dangerous to generalize from just boxing. And the data are likely to understate the effect of size by a hard to calculate amount due to the fact that there are more 200 pound men than 250 pound men, so the upper end of the skill distribution tail for the 200 pounders is likely to extend out a little further. As a result, we’re likely to see the very best 200 pounders having slightly more success against the very best 250 pounders than they would if size were the only factor just because the very best 250 pounders, drawn from a smaller pool of potential talent, are probably a little less skilled. And while one might try to correct for that, there is a risk of over-correction (it’s not safe to assume that men of different sizes are equally likely to go into boxing, so figuring out exactly what amount of potential talent is available at a given size isn’t a simple matter of looking at the demographic data).

        • baconbits9 says:

          It won’t give you a precise size/strength ratio, but it you should be able to use it to draw parameters and explore relationships. To discuss your examples a bit there are more 200 lb men than 250 lb men, but there are as many or more 170-190 lb men as there are 190-210 lb men, however there are basically no modern heavyweight champion boxers from the 170-190 lb range. You can be a 5’10 heavyweight champion like Tyson but it appears as if there is a min weight requirement to go with that height (Tyson fought in the 215 – 225 lb range) and you can be a 205 lb champion like Holyfield early in his career if you have more height and reach (6’2, 77″ reach was 6″ more than Tyson).

          This gives you a pretty good basic framework to work with. We can generally conclude that a 6’0+ and 180-200 lb boxer can’t compete with heavyweights at a high level because it doesn’t happen despite a reasonably large amount of the potential population that could fit into this category. As we can identify champion level boxers shorter than this we can conclude very reasonably that the weight is the issue, and that the weight is likely tied to strength issues.

          From there you could probably build a BMI like metric to plot out height and weight of successful heavyweight boxers as a proxy for strength and then use that to predict outcomes of matches between them and use that final result to approximate how important strength is to heavyweight boxing.

        • dndnrsn says:

          How much do boxers cut compared to MMA fighters? Because in the latter, someone who’s “185 pounds” is really 200 and change, if not a bit more, come fight night.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Another good reason to use the heavyweight class

          • dndnrsn says:

            Even in MMA, where there’s an upward limit on HWs, most fit in below that – there was a period where huge guys cutting to make 265 were going to take over the HW division, but that didn’t come to pass.

          • Protagoras says:

            The Klitschko brothers seem to provide evidence that in boxing the lack of huge boxers is probably more due to the smaller talent pool than to hugeness not being an advantage, considering how massively dominating boxers that were both huge and skilled managed to be.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This also happens with combatants of the same size, if the space is large relative to the fighters. A UFC heavyweight who gets hurt anywhere in the cage usually ends up against the fence eating punches, while a flyweight who gets hurt can retreat a great deal more.

        Additionally, the strength of blows seems to scale up a lot more with size than ability to absorb those blows does.

        • quanta413 says:

          The second thing sounds sort of like how you can’t just scale building designs up linearly.

          I know bigger animals have relatively bigger ribs for example. I’d guess that the power of a strike would scale roughly linearly with mass (volume) but the ability to absorb blows would only scale as mass^(2/3) (cross sectional area of breaking things basically). But it’s probably more complicated than that because humans aren’t rigids beams and such, and I don’t think human features scale in length as mass^(1/3).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I wonder what kind of fighting Nabil is most interested in simulating. Armed or pankration/MMA? Enclosed or open field?
        Tabletop RPGs tend to go very abstract when it comes to people fighting with different weapons (GURPS may be an exception). In a spear vs one-handed sword fight between fighters of equal skill, what’s the outcome probability? Any weight/strength advantage can be baked into damage by Strength score if you assume idealized builds, but what about height advantage? How do things change when it’s not a duel, but a more skilled fighter getting ganged up on?

        • In a spear vs one-handed sword fight between fighters of equal skill, what’s the outcome probability?

          If the swordsman also has a shield, he wins, unless the spearman is very good at running backwards.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            See, I was thinking the spearman had a shield and was stabbing one-handed, like a hoplite.
            When I’m designing a tabletop RPG, I like to go with a model that average human strength* does a normal six-sided die of damage with a weapon, and you can get a second die of damage by two-handing or dual-wielding, but you’ll lose against anyone with a shield, and parrying with a left-hand dagger is treated as a markedly inferior shield.

            *Not getting into sex differences here, as important as they are.

          • Randy M says:

            Actual advantage of dual wielding two weapons instead of a weapon and shield is of course highly questionable.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Randy M: Isn’t that what I said? If you’re attacking with two weapons or a two-handed weapon, you roll more damage but lose to anyone with a shield.
            I think sword and parrying dagger is worth modeling despite being strictly inferior to a shield because you can’t run with a shield, have to set it on the ground to do any non-combat manual task, and may be illegal to carry in town.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I suspect dual-wielded weapons were probably lighter than sword and shield.

            I’d guess it depends on the weapons and materials available, as well as the tactics your opponent uses. Against arrows or stones, give me a shield. Against claymores, give me two weapons – any shield that can stop one of those without breaking my arm is too heavy to carry.

            But generally, give me a pike or halberd, if I can’t have a crossbow. Fuck that close-up shit. I’m too pretty.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            At what point it’s wise to give up a shield for a polearm seems an important question to answer.

          • Randy M says:

            @Randy M: Isn’t that what I said? If you’re attacking with two weapons or a two-handed weapon, you roll more damage but lose to anyone with a shield.

            I don’t think there are very many actual historical examples of dual wielding. If you are doing a cinematic swashbuckling game like 7th sea or a tactical game where you want to give the players more options that are mechanically distinct and play on tropes, like D&D, it’s cool to give advantages for it (I do!). But, and correct me if I’m wrong, I think in actual combat situations (and therefore more simulationist games), be it warfare, dueling, or something in between, if you can’t grab a shield you’d want to go two handed on your sword/spear/axe whatever for increased power and control, rather than trying to divert your attention between the two.

            Maybe with significant training and sufficient off-hand strength and coordination, you can get in some serious threatening attacks with both weapons, but in most cases, you aren’t doing any more damage with two weapons than with one.

            At what point it’s wise to give up a shield for a polearm seems an important question to answer.

            How much room to maneuver is important and hard to model. Tactics Ogre, a tactical video game, has some spears with a melee reach of 2-3, unable to hit adjacent squares.
            Also, whether you are fighting in formation or in a brawl could be relevant. Best case is when you have Legionaries with shields protecting rear ranks with pole-arms.
            And the context; the tavern might frown on walking in with a Halberd but the arming sword and buckler could get a pass.

          • Protagoras says:

            Miyamoto Musashi seemed to think it could be advantageous to have a second weapon; it sounds like he recommends it as a parrying device primarily, and mostly for fights against multiple opponents, but he considered it important enough to advise giving off-hand weapon training a decent amount of attention. Of course, the Japanese seem to have had a strange aversion to shields that I’ve never quite been able to figure out.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Some editions of D&D also have polearms that can’t hit adjacent spaces. 3rd, being willfully ill-designed, had to include a reach melee weapon without that downside, the spiked chain. Optimizers discovered that the best use of the Fighter class was to spend a feat on proficiency with this weapon, then take Cleave, Great Cleave, and Power Attack at Levels 1-2, then start pestering the DM to let you take a feat called Leap Attack from a non-core book at Level 3. This would let you sacrifice +1 2 or 3 to hit for +4 8 or 12 damage and make a jump check into the middle of a 5×5 square of mooks, getting a free attack for each one you dropped to 0 HP.
            Such a good simulation of fantasy stories.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Ideally I’d like to be able to deal with the following situations:
          1. Unarmed striking and wrestling.
          2a. Fighting on foot with the pike, pollaxes, swords, and maces.
          2b. Fighting on horseback with the lance*, swords, and maces.
          3. Fighting with muskets, pistols, and grenades.
          *I’m aiming at an Early Modern feel, but it was a long period. If cavalry looks more like Reiters than Knights then I might not bother with lances.

          Any information on how strength, size and skill interact in a hand-to-hand fight would be useful. I could also use information on injuries for the first one. I’ve found good sources for the location and severity of wounds with edged and blunt weapons as well as guns.

          I would prefer not to track height, reach, and weight separately because they’re very strongly correlated. I will probably track strength separately but I’d like to be able to cap trained strength based on size.

          My default way of determining who wins in a skill-based contest outside of combat is using a simplified version of the Elo chess ranking system. Intelligence sets your maximum skill rank with training, and the difference between the ranks of opponents determines the likelihood of winning a single contest.

          • johan_larson says:

            I suggest you have a serious look at the GURPS roleplaying game, and how they handle hand-to-hand and low-tech combat. The system is a bit cumbersome, but it seems to produce sensible results.

          • Protagoras says:

            GURPS also has suggested heights/weights for given strength scores; a GM could easily adapt that table to give minimums for people who want their characters to be a certain strength.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Unarmed striking is actually going to be the hardest part, probably? It’s always tricky to find a decent sweet spot between “punches do absolutely nothing and you can eat like 500” or “everyone can punch a hole in a guy’s chest.”

            Also, maybe you’ll be the first human being to come up with a decent grappling system. Who knows?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @dndnrsn,

            Actually I was surprised how “safe” knife wounds are. Based on my main source, it looks like if you’re stabbed there’s only about a one in ten chance that you’ll die outright, and only a two on five chance of a major wound of any kind. Most of the time it’s a slash which isn’t immediately dangerous unless you don’t have antibiotics.

            I was worried that the game would be frustrating because combat is too deadly but it seems like the average knife fight will take six blows to settle ignoring armor and morale. Relatively weak unarmed strikes with a low chance of instantly ending a fight fit into that fairly well.

            Also, maybe you’ll be the first human being to come up with a decent grappling system. Who knows?

            Lol yeah that might be the hardest part. But if I don’t include one then the only way to deal with armored enemies will be maces and pollaxes. That’s a lot less exciting and less historically accurate.

          • bean says:

            Also, maybe you’ll be the first human being to come up with a decent grappling system. Who knows?

            The GUPRS grappling system is actually pretty reasonable. It’s pretty much like a normal attack, with I think an extra contested roll. To the point that the usual reaction in my group is “You’re grappling? Wait, this is the system with reasonable grapple rules. Now if we could only remember them.” (My group sometimes has trouble remembering rules.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            How many attacks do you get per round with a knife, though? I’m not out on the streets getting into knife fights, but my understanding is that the winning strategy is “grab the guy by the collar and just stab in the guts as much as possible”.

          • johan_larson says:

            How many attacks do you get per round with a knife, though?

            In GURPS, you get one attack and one defence per round (second) under normal conditions. You can take an All-Out Attack maneuver to do two attacks, but then you don’t get any defence (except for Dodge, which is basically useless unless you’re Spider-Man.)

          • Protagoras says:

            Yes, knives are underpowered in GURPS; there’s a mechanism to represent how, say, a sword can be faster than a pole-arm (there’s readying time for pole-arms), but a sword is as fast as GURPS lets a weapon be, and so a knife is basically a lower damage, shorter range sword, with virtually no advantages. Well, apart from useability in close combat, which is actually not necessary trivial given that as has been mention previously GURPS has non-horrible grappling rules which can enable someone to keep an opponent in close combat and so unable to effectively use larger weapons.

          • Wander says:

            If you want to read some interesting historical theories on matchups between different weapons, George Silver’s Paradoxes Of Defence has you covered. Start reading from “Of the vantages of weapons in their kinds, places, & times, both in private and public fight”, unless you want to read several chapters of dissing on Italian rapier masters.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      What do you guys think of George Silver’s 1599 martial arts manual?

      He claimed the two-handed sword “has the vantage” of the sword & buckler or sword & target, even when the two-handed blade is only equal in length. He similarly claimed that all polearms have the advantage in a duel, and a polearm “of the perfect length” (8-9 feet) even has the vantage over two sword & buckler men at once.
      Note that when he talks “of the perfect length”, he means for a duel, and claims that in mass combat men should be armed with pikes unless they’re in the front rank, where they should have sword & target, zweihander, or 5-6 foot battleaxe.

      • Wander says:

        It’s a really good read overall, though some will say that he wasn’t a fencing master himself and may as well have been just some crank theorycrafting. His ideas about perfect length do seem absolutely spot on from practical experience, the issues with overlong weapons he talks about absolutely occur if you play around with them in bouts.
        I’m especially fond of that 2 on 1 polearm fight description. Also of the legendary tactic of “Cob’s traverse”.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      About 40% of the way down this page is a chart entitled “The importance of height and weight in Sumo”, which is a combat sport with no weight classes.

      This is an analysis of over 2 centuries of Sumo tournament data.

      https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-sumo-matchup-centuries-in-the-making/

      From footnote 7:

      In a regression to win percentage per tournament using height and body mass index (we use BMI instead of weight because height and weight are highly correlated) as variables, the r-squared produced is around .05 (meaning, roughly, that about 5 percent of the variance in tournament results can be explained by the height and weight of each wrestler alone), which, again, weakens as you control for division and era.

  7. gbdub says:

    Continuing my curling series from the last couple OTs:

    Broomgate Part II: The Arms Race
    An arms race in sweeping technology took off in 2010, when the Canadian women’s Olympic squad competed with the new BalancePlus EQualizer brush pad. This added a thin foil layer between the fabric and foam of the pad, designed to insulate and prevent heat transfer into the pad and body of the broom. Apparently studies showed that it substantially increased the warming effect on the ice of sweeping, by 30% or more. In 2014, many more teams used these pads.

    2014 also saw the introduction of the “Norway” pad, which used a stiffer, textured foam in the pad and also applied a polyurethane waterproof coating to the outside of the fabric – this reduced friction (allowing for faster sweeping) while preventing the broom from getting wet (known to reduce effectiveness).

    The most radical design was released by Hardline in 2015, a design named the IcePad. This had a smaller head, designed to concentrate the force. The foam was ditched entirely, replaced with a stiff plastic backing. The fabric had an even more aggressive waterproofing, resulting in a surface more like plastic than fabric (this was dubbed “directional” fabric for reasons that aren’t 100% clear). The overall idea was to only sweep the top of the pebbled ice –where other brooms would conform to the surface, the IcePad scraped along the top of it, impacting only the area the stone actually touched. Theories proliferate (see my past post) but there’s a good chance that this scraping mechanism added a new component to sweeping (or enhanced an existing one): adding small directional scratches to the ice that the stone would tend to follow. Interestingly, for a while the scratch theory caused hair-bristle brooms to make a brief comeback on the idea that they would be more effective at producing directional scratches.

    These broom heads were clearly more effective, but they also damaged the ice more quickly. And, when combined with advanced sweeping strategies, they started to have a profound effect on shotmaking. Where traditional sweeping always added distance and reduced curl, the new brooms could add curl, or take it all the way out, allegedly even causing a bit of negative curl against the rotation of the rock. You started to see a lot more “switching” of sweepers. The sweeper closest to the rock is providing 2/3+ of the effect, and which side of the stone you sweep has some impact: sweeping from the side it is curling toward creates scratches opposite the curl, reducing it. Switch to the other sweeper, who is on the other side, and their strokes will tend to create scratches in the direction of curl and curve it more. “Corner sweeping”, sweeping only one side of the stone rather than the whole path, can have similar impact and was also made more effective by the new brooms.

    Professional curlers likened this to a “joystick” and there was a revolt: prior to the 2015-16 season, 34 top Canadian teams signed onto a letter vowing to voluntarily limit themselves to traditional brush heads, as they believed the new technology was fundamentally altering the game in a negative way. They argued it was taking too much skill out of throwing: poor shots could be rescued by fancy sweeping in ways that totally changed strategy.

    There were also accusations of unfair industrial lawfare: the calls for a ban were led by teams sponsored by traditional curling supply giant BalancePlus, who stood to lose the most if the patented Hardline designs became the new standard.

    Clearly, something needed to be done, and it was left to the World Curling Federation (WCF) to determine how sweeping tech would shake out.

    • johan_larson says:

      How well has the effectiveness of sweeping been tested? To a spectator, it’s not clear it does anything at all. Have there been blind tests and such?

      • gbdub says:

        My last entry in the series will talk a bit about this, but a few studies have been done. Mostly practical rather than purely scientific. I have no idea how you’d do a blind test of sweeping. But in deciding how to legislate the new broom rules, they did have the same curlers sweep with the same brooms with different pads and observe the results.

        There have been some tests with “smart brooms” that had sensors to measure speed, pressure, and infrared cameras for ice temperature to measure the effectiveness of different sweeping techniques. Here’s a brief article about a study in 2010

        Sweeping definitely makes a big difference – even novices will notice the sweeping pulling the stone farther and straighter. I don’t know, it’s kind of like luge or something – it might not look like they are actually doing much, but the difference between a skilled and unskilled participant is pretty stark live.

    • Bobby Shaftoe says:

      Does the scratching effect from one round of brushing linger to effect subsequent stones in the rest of the match?

      • gbdub says:

        It can, yes, although usually not enough to notice from a single shot (the broom path is after all affected by the stone, some time to rechill, and then your own brooms before your next stone would cross it). I’m not sure investigating scratching patterns (which would be not super microscopic but not quite visible to the eye either) has been done extensively.

        Mainly this is noticed as certain paths down the ice (where the most stones are played) getting progressively worn down. As the pebble breaks down shots will tend to slow. Actually the US vs. CAN match today featured a missed draw by CAN that slowed down more than they thought it would as it came into the house, leaving it short (had they swept it more earlier, the shot would have been made). This was late in the game and probably an effect of wear.

        One of the complaints about the new style brooms was that they were amplifying this effect, causing the sheet to break down more quickly and become unplayable before the end of a single game. The new approved pad materials were selected to minimize the scratching/scraping effect.

        It is important for players to be aware of ice conditions, even during a game. Early, shots will tend to be a bit slow, as there is usually a bit of frost on the ice. In the middle ends, the frost has been knocked down, the pebble is polished, and shots will go quicker. Then at the end, certain paths will start to get overworn and slow down again. Sometimes it can be a big surprise if you have to play a shot on an unplayed line later in a game, especially off to the sides of the sheet – you’ll think you have the weight but then the frost will grab it and it will slow quickly (You may hear this referred to as “getting into the weeds”).

        Often even the best ice will have a bit of slope from one end to the other, such that one direction is “downhill” and requires a slightly different weight. This is completely imperceptible to the eye, but it’s often enough to change draw weight by ~0.10 of a second (using the back-to-hog timing, which is usually 3.5 to 4 for draw weight).

        Another impact you’ll notice as play progresses is that the middle of the sheet will wear more, creating a slight “dishing” or half-pipe effect. This can create some weirdness as a shot thrown wider might actually curl more, as it “falls off the hill” (the frost on the edge plays a role here too, since slower stones also curl more).

  8. gbdub says:

    And the obligatory curling competition update:

    Both the men and women have completed the round robin portions of the tournament.

    On the men’s side, there is a tiebreaker game this evening (US mainland time) between GBR and SUI (actually starts in about half an hour). The winner of that game will face top-ranked SWE in the first semi-final. The second semi-final will be between CAN and USA. That game is tomorrow morning US time.

    For the women, no tiebreaker was needed. Semis are Friday morning US time. The first is KOR vs. JPN in what I’m assuming is the closest thing women’s Asian curling has to a knock down grudge match. The second is SWE vs. GBR. Shockingly, CAN missed the playoffs entirely and will be the first Canadian Olympic curling team to go home without a medal.

    • skef says:

      Is anyone else bothered that spherical cows are scorned to the point of total disregard, while round robins are considered perfectly fine?

    • gbdub says:

      Switzerland beats Great Britain with an absolutely clutch double takeout through a very narrow window to take 5(!) in the 9th end, and they advance to face Sweden.

    • gbdub says:

      USA beats Canada! They will face Sweden in the gold medal game, with the Canadians forced to settle for a bronze medal game against the Swiss.

      Team USA is already guaranteed their best finish ever; previously the only US curling medal was the bronze for the men’s team in 2006. Current skip John Shuster was the lead for that team, which was skipped by Pete Fenson.

      Sweden won the round robin game between the teams handily, but prior to the Olympics, team Shuster had won their last 3 against team Edin. The Swedes are world #1 for a reason, but if anyone has their number, it would seem to be Shuster. Should be a great match.

      • Iain says:

        After staying up late to see the women lose their first game of Olympic hockey since 1998, the last three ends of the Koe/Shuster game were a real kick in the teeth. Koe just … fell apart.

        • gbdub says:

          If it makes you feel any better, Shuster has been legitimately on fire in the current win streak dating back to the first win over Canada. George also really improved after a rough start. Koe basically had one really rough end – he needed to be perfect to beat USA in their current form.

          Re: hockey, I was obviously happy to see USA pull out a win, but I’ve been on record for awhile in hating shootouts for elimination games.

          • Iain says:

            My favourite part of this article in the Toronto Star (“Was this the worst day in Canadian Olympic history?”):

            “You play a game that comes down to millimetres,” Kennedy said. “It’s a really (expletive) hard game at this level, right? You’re playing guys that are playing really well. You’re not going to win every game. That’s just the way it is.

            “Sorry about the F-bomb.”

            I don’t love the shootout either, but to be honest the Americans were outplaying the Canadians in overtime, and the shootout gave us a better chance of winning than we probably deserved.

          • gbdub says:

            That’s pretty good. Perfectly Canadian – the thing that gets him worked up enough to drop an F-bomb to a reporter is curling, but he still apologizes about it. It’s a good thing mixed doubles got added this year, or I think all of Curling Canada would be committing mass ritual suicide.

            For the hockey, not only did USA play better in OT but I thought the one Canada goal from behind the net was kind of garbage / luck. But that’s the joy of single elimination hockey (which also sucks in general).

  9. bean says:

    Today, Naval Gazing begins a look at battleship engineering, starting with the introduction of steam power.

    • cassander says:

      I’ve never understood fire tube boilers. I assume there’s some good reason for them, but water tube just seems to make so much more sense to me. Do you have any idea why firetube boilers were a thing? Lower pressures, maybe?

      • bean says:

        I’m not really sure either, and for the same reasons. Water-tube just makes so much more sense. I may have to poke around a bit on that.

        • bean says:

          I did some digging, and the answer is hard to find. People were apparently experimenting with them as far back as the 1840s (maybe earlier), but they just couldn’t make them reliable for some reason. I’d suspect tube failures, maybe due to chemistry issues with the small volume of water. Apparently ship pressures were well below locomotive pressures until they got the condensers sorted out.

          • johan_larson says:

            It may also be related to how boilers developed. First the boiler was a tank with an inlet and an outlet, with the fire outside/under it. Then a flue was added, to let the fire gases come in closer contact with the tank. Add multiple flues, and you have a fire-tube boiler.

            More here:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flued_boiler

          • bean says:

            Yes, but people were doing serious experiments with water tubes at least 50 years before they came into naval use. Initial lock-in can only last so long. I think David W’s explanation below is correct.

      • SamChevre says:

        One immediately-obvious advantage to me is strength: flue gas is not under pressure, while steam is–and bursting strength is a lot lower than crush strength for a cylinder. So a fire tube can be much thinner-walled than a steam tube.

        • John Schilling says:

          Cylinders under compression fail by buckling, and the buckling strength of thin-walled cylinders is very small. As can be verified with any convenient empty soda can.

        • bean says:

          Not really. One of the big advantages of water tubes is that the volume that has to be pressurized is a lot smaller, which makes it stronger/lighter.

        • SamChevre says:

          OK–bad guess on my part. Looking up strength for PVC pipe, the pressure differentials are slightly lower if the interior pressure is the higher pressure.

      • David W says:

        Steel loses strength starting around 300 Celsius, and the loss gets severe by 500 C. Flame temperatures of both coal and oil is well over 2000 C under ideal conditions, but even a non-ideal flame will be well above the softening temperature of steel. This is the basic technology of a blacksmith. In order to keep your steel boiler cooled below the flame temperature you’re working with, you need to keep any steel that is exposed to flame, wetted with water. The water picks up the heat fast enough to keep the steel temperature down. Heat transfer rate of boiling is much greater than heat transfer rate from gasses, which helps.

        In a water tube boiler, this means careful design and control of your water circulation pumps and distributors, to keep an even flow rate of excess water through every single tube, matched to your firing rate. If even one tube is allowed to dry up (that is, fill with steam instead of water), it will rapidly heat, soften and burst and then you’ve lost pressure on your whole boiler. This gets even harder when you don’t have precise control of your water quality, so that tubes and your distributor may be accumulating deposits in unwelcome places, altering your flow patterns.

        A flame tube boiler, on the other hand, can protect itself from the softening effect of excess heat by…keeping the flame on the bottom of the vessel and enough of a water level inside. So long as the flue gasses lose enough of their heat to the water before getting above the waterline, you’re safe. You only need to maintain water level, not flow rate and distribution. Gravity and natural circulation can keep water moving past the flame tubes. Much easier to achieve, which means it makes sense as the earlier design.

        • bean says:

          That makes a lot of sense, particularly when combined with the iffy metallurgy of the time. “Unreliability” didn’t seem a fully satisfactory answer, but that does. Thank you very much. I’ve added a footnote with my summary of your explanation and a link to your comment.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          This seems to make sense, except: modern (WW2) steam turbines operated with steam well into your danger zone. My copy of Naval Engineering is at home and I’m in Wenatchee, but I want to say 1200psi (which online engineering tables round off to ~600F?) is in play here?

          How does your explanation square with their steam piping not melting?

          • bean says:

            Actually, that’s well below the temperatures involved, because they were using superheated steam. Iowa’s system was nominally 600 psi and 850 F, which is very much in the danger zone.

            I believe the answer is that they simply designed around it. The loss of strength is serious, yes, but it just means you need more steel. The real problem is if you have a section that gets well above its design temperature, but that can be quite a bit above the point strength loss sets in.

          • David W says:

            Bean’s pretty much got it. Loss of strength is very much a curve, rather than an instantaneous thing. Steel won’t melt until 1300-1500 C, but it loses strength along the way. You correct for that with thicker tubes – and metallurgy, and design. Which is a combination of requiring additional knowledge, and requiring additional money and weight. If you check the link I provided, you’ll see a statement that “Strength loss for steel is generally accepted to begin at about 300°C and increases rapidly after 400°C. By 550°C steel retains approximately 60% of its room temperature yield strength”. You’ll also see that they very quickly stop talking about ‘steel’ and start talking about specific alloys (BS EN 10025 grade S275 steel, for example).

            But, if you really need 550°C tolerance, you can get there, you just need to provide twice the steel to do the job. And very solid controls to ensure you don’t ever see 570°C, not even when the captain is on the phone demanding a little more power.

            Some alloys are better than others at heat resistance. As you combine better materials science with better understanding of heat transfer and flame behavior, you can push into higher regimes. Current state of the art is around 1100 F (600 C) and 3800 psig simultaneously. The better you understand the heat generation and transfer, the more you can control the steel temperature to ensure no hot spots. Steam power has been continuously improving ever since it was invented. Still – no one can get to 2000°C, adiabatic flame temperature of most hydrocarbons. It’s all about the design making sure that the heat keeps moving at a rate where your steel stays within its specifications.

            I’m not a boiler engineer, but I’ve gotten boilers quoted for plants I’ve been designing. When I specify something stupid, the typical response these days is ‘are you sure you really need that? We can do it, but it’ll cost you.’ Typically by crossing the line from a lower pressure class of pipe to a higher class, by asking for my steam superheated just a touch more than I should.

            The other failure mode is to ask a boiler to be able to run at too much of variation in demand. You can’t just cut the fuel and water both to 25% nor increase it to 150%, you’ll end up with hot spots.

            Anyway, back to the original point. Water tube boilers are definitely possible, and even preferred once your engineering is sophisticated enough. It’s just that the design is less fault-tolerant, so you’d better have solid engineering, solid metallurgy, quality control, good maintenance, and well-trained operators.

          • Lillian says:

            And suddenly i understand why it was so difficult to make functional and economic water tube locomotive.

          • David W says:

            Hmm, I just realized – when I said ‘the strength of steel declines above 300 C’, I meant as a function of increasing temperature. Perhaps you interpreted that as a function of time instead?

            There’s a range of temperatures where you can simply design around the decreased strength of steel, it’s just that you’d better know what temperature you’ll be dealing with.

    • bean says:

      My comments on Strike Warfare (or why the A-10 and the Gripen aren’t a complete solution) have been revised and reposted.

      • FLWAB says:

        Loved that article bean. I have a question, though I don’t know if you could help me at all: my grandfather worked for Boeing as an engineer from 1950 to 1985. I know for sure that he worked on the B-52 (the picture in your post made me think of it) and the Minuteman missile, among other things. However whenever I try to find any documentation about his role on those projects I don’t find much (he has a fairly unique last name, which helps in searching). So far I’ve found a couple official documents about the Minuteman that had him listed (among dozens of others) as someone the document was distributed to, and an abstract for a presentation he and others gave on the feasibility of transporting nuclear missiles via railroad. I would love to know more about his role, but I’m a novice at this kind of research. How do you go about researching the designers on projects like this? Should I file a FOIA request or something? Would his work at Boeing even be eligible for that sort of thing?

        Not sure if you have any advice on this, but either way I enjoy your blog and how well researched it is.

  10. Odovacer says:

    MIT Technology Review’s 2018 10 Breakthrough Technologies

    3-D Metal Printing
    Artificial Embryos
    Sensing City
    AI for Everybody
    Dueling Neural Networks
    Babel-Fish Earbuds
    Zero-Carbon Natural Gas
    Perfect Online Privacy
    Genetic Fortune-Telling
    Materials’ Quantum Leap

    Seems like a lot of hype. But cool to imagine.

    • fr8train_ssc says:

      I think the absence of certain technologies that have been hyped in the media speaks more volumes than those on there. Specifically, Solar Roadways, Smart Contracts, Hyperloop (Though several of Musk’s other projects have made earlier years).

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t get your point with regard to Hyperloop. Musk proposed it back in 2013 and people have built a few models since then. Is the fact that this recently proposed, expensive project hasn’t been commercialized yet supposed to be strong evidence against its viability?

        • fr8train_ssc says:

          The fact that The Boring Company is a necessary pre-requisite for an economically feasible hyperloop, and all that they’ve managed in two years is to get permits and hand out flamethrowers is strong evidence against its viability.

          Notwithstanding energy economy issues maintaining a low pressure environment in a cavity larger than 21000m3, the accompanying safety engineering issues, and the fact that maglev systems even in open air environments are not economical in almost all cases.

          • Wrong Species says:

            So how long after the existence of The Boring Company did the fact that it hasn’t provided a commercial project prove it wasn’t viable? 1 year(it’s only been a little over a year by the way)? 1 month? 1 day? I don’t know what you are expecting.

          • fr8train_ssc says:

            Tunnel Boring Machines aren’t new. Unlike SpaceX or Tesla, there have been, and are currently, multiple firms producing TBMS like Hitachi, Robbins, and Herrenknecht. Caterpillar got onto the scene via acquisition a few years ago. These companies aren’t dumb, and haven’t benefited from a glut of Defense money like Lockheed and Boeing have. I’m a lot more skeptical of his claim that he and a team of other engineers can come up with a 10x reduction of cost per mile for tunneling, especially when Caterpillar has had a leg up on automating diggers and other heavy machinery.

            The Boring Company will either have to play nice and license technologies from other companies, or will have to rapidly spin up something novel to catch up to the design experience these other companies have. It would be better if they try to work with an existing company, but there hasn’t been any big news about a partnership or acquisition. Consider me skeptical that the Boring Company is able to come up with some device in the next 5 years that’s able to outperform what some of these other companies can and will produce in 5 years.

            Assume in 5 years the Boring Company makes amazing headway. They’ve managed to figure out how to manufacture, large scale, a boring machine that’s more automated and has a longer life-cycle. It manages to halve the US per mile cost of tunneling from ~$1 billion per mile, down to $500 million. This would be phenomenal from a civil engineering standpoint. The Boring Company would be viable at that point, but…

            That still doesn’t make his Hyperloop viable! His proposed NY to DC/Baltimore tunnel would still cost over $100 billion to construct, and take over a decade to complete! That doesn’t even include the infrastructure like vacuum pumps and propulsion systems to support what would be traveling in it!

            Since Scott made a post recently about 5 year predictions (https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/02/15/five-more-years/), consider this part of my own:

            By the end of 5 years…
            90% chance The Boring Company does not have a minimum viable product
            75% chance they do not reach a continuous 24-hour bore or 1 mile research milestone with a newly conceived TBM design
            50% chance they end up acquiring or announcing a partnership with an existing firm

            Considering the absence of related predictions on that thread, I’m curious what your own are….

          • Wrong Species says:

            All of that may or may not be true. My only point is that the lack of a viable product for these big projects as of this moment isn’t strong evidence against them being viable. If TBC can’t get any meaningful innovations in the next five years, that would be better evidence. If they can’t do anything in the next 10-15 years, then that’s pretty strong evidence. But that all remains to be seen. And you have to factor in regulatory approval too. If the tech is viable but he gets roadblocked by city councils, then we can’t really say one way or another.

            With Hyperloop, it’s a little different because it’s such a massive upfront cost. We know in hindsight that going to the moon was viable back in 1969, but if the government didn’t give NASA funding, we wouldn’t have been sure. So I’m not sure what a good timeline for determining it’s viability would be.

      • shakeddown says:

        Does anyone take solar roadways seriously? There’s no point in doing those before we’ve covered every more convenient piece of land (e.g. all rooftops) in solar panels. But which time We’d have 100% solar anyway.

        • Nornagest says:

          Solar roadways were a transparently stupid idea from an engineering perspective, but there are a lot of ideas that are transparently stupid from an engineering perspective but which lurch along anyway in environmental activist circles, because most environmental activists are not engineers. Vertical farms, for example.

          That doesn’t reflect poorly on environmental activism in itself — most people period aren’t engineers. It can become a problem when they start being floated as the only environmentally sound alternative to some non-stupid plan, but fortunately that’s pretty rare.

  11. Well... says:

    When people in the mainstream media, and sometimes elsewhere, talk about the all-trite* they often seem to not know what they’re talking about. Even though I don’t sympathize with the all-trite I still find this inaccuracy irritating, so I created a blog entry that’s meant to describe the all-trite, still from a high level but with much greater clarity than I’m used to seeing in descriptions made by others.

    My innovation, and the part I’m curious to hear your feedback on, is that I divide the all-trite up into three different sections by which it can be understood: the more mature intellectual section that wants to be taken seriously, the juvenile prankster section that trolls and has naughty fun online, and the conspiracy theory section that is obsessed with Tha Jooz and thinks the Holocaust was a hoax. I even created a handy illustration to show how the sections overlap and where various individuals or websites might fit within them.

    Then later in the post I provide some of my own thoughts in response to the all-trite.

    *Spelling altered to reduce Googlability. If you don’t know what all-trite is, say it out loud.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is it accurate to label people who were doing their respective shticks before “alt-right” was coined, before people started posting MSPaint pictures of frogs dressed like SS officers, etc, “alt-right”? Can somebody be folded into an ideological position that they influenced, or that has similar views to theirs, uh, I guess “retroactively” is the best word to use?

      This is something more broad – you could just as easily apply the same question to musical genres as ideological positions. Are the Stooges a punk band? (Is the retroactive label “proto-punk” legitimate?)

      • Well... says:

        I don’t know how I’d answer the general question. But because so many all-trite people follow the mantra of “no enemies to my right” I think the Wackos should be included in the all-trite even if they predate it.

        Besides, the term all-trite (when spelled correctly, obviously) is relatively new. Its synonyms and metonyms (dissident right, dark enlightenment, nyoree-action, etc.) are somewhat new too. In a way, it would be impossible for the terms to predate all, or perhaps even most, of the people and websites they include.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I don’t mean the ones you categorize as Wackos, but rather the ones you categorize as Grownups – there’s several people there who were doing what they’re doing before the “alt-right” label even first appeared.

          Pat Buchanan was a big deal, when, in the early 90s? VDARE and AmRen were both doing their “white nationalism, but it learned how to put a jacket and tie on” shtick since, what, late 90s? I see you’ve put Coulter on the fringes of it – I’d say she’s far more trollish than the rest there, and is/was pretty mainstream – do her books still sell big? Derbyshire was a pretty boring “cranky conservative” writer until he got ousted for NR. I don’t know how long Sailer has been around; he’s more of an influence on the alt-right than one of them, isn’t he? Etc.

          • Well... says:

            Fair enough. What I said above works for the “grownups” too.

            BTW, I don’t think Coulter/Buchanan are “in” the all-trite, but they are sort of associated with it or on the fringes, for the reasons I stated in the caption to that diagram.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the only people in any movement worth engaging with are the grownups, and that they should not be judged by the words or actions of the wackos and the trolls.

            I also think our current social media (as well as traditional media) give lots of attention to the trolls and wackos, and not much to the grownups. Some of this is weakmanning as a strategy, but more is outrage-farming and seeking controversy for clickbait.

          • Well... says:

            @albatross11:

            I agree, though I don’t know what you mean by “engaging with”, so we might mean different things.

          • albatross11 says:

            I mean that there is zero value to mankind added when you read, understand, and respond to someone who’s crazy or trolling. There’s not even much value in pointing out how wrong they are, since plenty of other people are doing that. (A big chunk of all internet writing amounts to “Get a load of this idiot!”)

            But there are people in just about any political or social movement who have some actual ideas worth understanding. Even if you disagree with them–even if you think their core moral values are horribly wrong–there can be a lot of value in understanding what they believe and why. You can learn things from them.

            And ultimately, the way we’re going to get to a better picture of reality is to engage with people with whom we disagree–to take their critiques or concerns seriously and think about them.

            One problem with this, IMO, is that our media culture massively rewards trolls/crazies and looks for outrage rather than insight. So it’s not so obvious where to look for people who are grownups among the outgroup/opposite tribe/whatever.

          • Well... says:

            OK then we agree.

          • DavidS says:

            On all sides I think there is also some (limited) legitimacy in terms of ‘what whackos and children on your side are you flying cover for or seeking to get the support of’. Especially (and this is obviously controversial) where you suspect the ‘grownup’ policy position is a fairly recent/thin veneer over a social movement actually more accurately reflected by less grown up people.

          • albatross11 says:

            DavidS:

            Sure. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to use that logic to decide not to listen to anyone on some side with whom you have disagreements. As an example, Communism as actually implemented in the 20th century left some amazing body counts. And yet, there may be people making critiques of current US society from a Marxist perspective who have something useful or interesting to say, even if you suspect those people of kinda being okay with Stalin or Mao.

          • albatross11 says:

            Thinking about this more, it seems like there’s a basic problem: The further your assumptions/beliefs/values are from mine, the harder it is for me to distinguish whether you are:

            a. Honestly arguing in good faith for a bizarre point of view

            b. Crazy / evil

            c. Trolling

            As a mostly non-political version of that, I think most people hearing someone advance an argument for why AI safety is a serious matter are probably in this situation–the whole matter being disussed seems so odd and unfamiliar, and the premises so strange, that they may very well just dismiss the speaker as a nutcase or some clown trying to get attention instead of actually ever hearing the arguments.

            The problem is, the world is *full* of crazies and trolls and conmen and shills/propagandists arguing in bad faith. So we need some quick-and-dirty ways to dismiss arguments/people who are only going to waste our time. But it’s very easy for those heuristics for avoiding nonsense to leave us with blind spots.

            Making the problem even worse, there are a hell of a lot of people who are actively trying to show us the crazies/trolls, either because it attracts eyeballs and clicks, or because it distracts us from some discussion they don’t want us having. (Or just because they’re hoping to stir some shit up, as with the Russian internet propaganda operations.)

    • Dissonant Cognizance says:

      The Kids section includes the likes of r/pol at 4Chan…

      If this is a trolling attempt it’s a good one, assuming it reaches the target. If not, 4chan boards don’t have an r/ in the URL (with the obvious exception of the requests board, /r/). It’s just /pol/, like that, with two slashes.

      • Well... says:

        Oh, oops. I always get that wrong. Will change it.

        ETA: OK, I updated it. Just curious, why did this make you think I was trolling?

        • Anonymous says:

          Because channers consider redditors below them in the status hierarchy, see here.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Part of 4chan culture is an intense hatred for reddit, so it’s common for people to rile others up by accusing them of “being reddit” and the like. By putting r/pol/ you’re implying the board is similar to Plebbit, which is anathema.

        • Well... says:

          @Anonymous & Whatever Happened To Anonymous:

          Huh. How odd. I learn something new every day. Well, good to know. Now I’m curious how that antipathy could have come about…aren’t they both just sorta online forums? And aren’t channers self-consciously timewasters and shitposters? Seems like that would make it hard to criticize Reddit except in an ironic way.

    • Thegnskald says:

      My interpretation of them is that it is a coalition of people whose only unifying belief is that modern progressive Leftism has become a fascist-like ideology. (To clarify, the basic belief, to me, looks like “If it was/would have been wrong to do to civil rights protesters, it is equally wrong to do to any ideology”, which looks approximately right for the reason that it is impossible to identify who will have been regarded as morally correct fifty years from now). This means they spend a lot of time defending the worst elements of society, and indeed allying with them for tactical purposes, which provokes poor optics and conflation. (This leads to identitarians and nationalists getting shoved under their umbrella)

      Beyond that, I don’t think there actually is anything tying all of them together. They are just pissed at the way certain ideological groups get treated in our society.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I think that the unifying factor behind the “alt-right” and what differentiates themselves from mainstream right-wingers and other non-mainstream right-wingers (eg the theocrats) is that they’re biodeterminists. Biodeterminism, or at least explicit biodeterminism, isn’t very popular today.

      • Brad says:

        (To clarify, the basic belief, to me, looks like “If it was/would have been wrong to do to civil rights protesters, it is equally wrong to do to any ideology”, which looks approximately right for the reason that it is impossible to identify who will have been regarded as morally correct fifty years from now).

        This looks like nihilism to me. Yes, it is impossible to know for certain who will be regarded as morally correct fifty years from now. So what? Why refuse to make any moral judgments today because you can’t know what the consensus will be in fifty years?

        I’m reminded of those punished in the ante-chamber to hell in the Inferno:

        Whirls on the air forever dirty with it
        As if a whirlwind sucked at sand. And I,
        Holding my head in horror, cried: “Sweet Spirit,
        What souls are these who run through this black haze?”
        And he to me: “These are the nearly soulless
        Whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise.

        They are mixed here with that despicable corps
        Of angels who were neither for God nor Satan,
        But only for themselves. The High Creator
        Scourged them from Heaven for its perfect beauty,
        And Hell will not receive them since the wicked
        Might feel some glory over them.” And I:

        “Master, what gnaws at them so hideously
        Their lamentation stuns the very air?”
        “They have no hope of death,” he answered me,
        “and in their blind and unattaining state
        Their miserable lives have sunk so low
        That they must envy every other fate.”

        No word of them survives their living season.
        Mercy and Justice deny them even a name.
        Let us not speak of them: look, and pass on.”
        I saw a banner there upon the mist.
        Circling and circling, it seemed to scorn all pause.
        So it ran on, and still behind it pressed

        A never-ending rout of souls in pain.
        I had not thought death had undone so many
        As passed before me in that mournful train.
        And some I knew among them; last of all
        I recognized the shadow of that soul
        Who, in his cowardice, made the Great Denial.

        At once I understood for certain: these
        Were of that retrograde and faithless crew
        Hateful to God and to His enemies.
        These wretches never born and never dear
        Ran naked in a swarm of wasps and hornets
        That goaded them the more the more they fled,

        And made their faces stream with bloody gouts
        Of pus and tears that dribbled to their feet
        To be swallowed there by loathsome worms and maggots.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Make moral judgments. Seriously, do. Both the civil rights protesters and their opposition did.

          But don’t behave in such a way that, if you are wrong, you will be remembered as a comically over the top villain.

          That seems like a pretty basic and good rule to me.

          Hence – if it would be wrong to do to a civil rights protester, don’t do it. It is a simple rule.

          • Brad says:

            I can make moral judgments, but only as a sort of intellectual game. I’m not allowed to take them seriously, that would just be rude.

            The one and only unshakable moral judgment that is allowed is the one that holds good sportsmanship in the intellectual game is absolutely obligatory.

            Consider two people:
            1) Goes online and argues that Jews ought to be gassed. We’ll call him Jim.

            2) Goes online and argues that people ought not to shop at Jim’s store because Jim goes online and argues that Jews ought to be gassed. Call him Arthur.

            Under the set of (meta)ethics that you are pushing, Arthur is the monster. That’s fucked up. If that’s where those meta-ethics are pushing you then you need to stop spending so much time in the meta level clouds and consider that while keeping in mind Cromwell’s maxim is good, there’s a flip side. You may not be mistaken.

            If the group you are defending look an awful lot like circa 1935 nazis, it is *possible* that they are really circa 1955 SCLC, but since you think the former is more likely than the latter, why are you more worried about how history will view you if you were wrong then how it will view you if you were right?

          • Thegnskald says:

            I thought I was the punk? You going to throw some firebombs now?

            But no. The point is that you don’t actually know whether you are the Nazi or the guy calling Nazis out. Epistemological humility. There is a difference between calling for somebody to die, and calling for somebody to suffer – but there is likewise a difference between calling for someone to suffer, and calling someone wrong.

            During the civil rights era, both sides thought they were in the right. You don’t get to say “But my morality is objectively correct” – you don’t know that.

            And more importantly, the norms we have to protect literal Nazis also protect literal civil rights protesters. The point isn’t to defend Nazis – the point is that you don’t know who the Nazis are.

            Certainly the people opposing civil rights didn’t. And while it is nice to think we are smarter than they were, it probably isn’t true, and we probably have massive ideological blind spots just like they did.

          • Brad says:

            Again, I’d say epistemological nihilism. I may well be wrong. But better to be in the world and make mistakes than to take self-abnegation so far that the only thing you are willing to do is steelman literal nazis in case maybe you missed something. Yet somehow an exception is made for people that want to shun literal nazis. Not kill them. Not throw them in jail. Not set dogs on them. But shun them. That’s not allowed. It’s uncharitable. It shows hubris. Of this and only this you’re certain.

            Let’s look at another kind of epistemological humanity cum nihilism. You can’t disprove solipsism. That’s one of the bedrock problems of epistemology. Yet you, me, and everyone else not in a mental institution lives every day of his life as if solipsism was false. Because solipsism is boring and stupid and counterproductive to life.

          • Thegnskald says:

            You seem to be confusing “We should treat people with a basic level of decency regardless of the views they hold” with “We should treat all views as equally valid”.

            Again. Tell them they are wrong. Tell them why they are wrong.

            But the moment you use coercion to achieve your goals, you have done fucked up. From a pragmatic perspective, because you have just normalized the use of coercion to shut down dissenting views. From a moral perspective, because you’ve been an asshole.

            It doesn’t matter if the target is a literal Nazi. If you think it does, you are engaging in the same kind of thinking AS a literal Nazi, just the kind who thought the kids could be taken away from their parents and taught wholesome values instead of evil Jewish ones.

          • Iain says:

            Instead of bickering about this in the abstract, how about Thegnskald points to a specific instance of “modern progressive leftism” doing something that it would be wrong to do to a civil rights protestor, and Brad can see whether he disagrees?

            Then you can at least bicker about something specific.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            Attempting to get people fired and/or blacklisted from employment, to pick the central example.

          • Brad says:

            From a moral perspective, because you’ve been an asshole.

            I guess we just have very different moral values. I would consider you the asshole for knowingly patronizing the shop of someone that advocates for putting me into a gas chamber.

            If you think it does, you are engaging in the same kind of thinking AS a literal Nazi,

            Only in the same sense as believing that murders should imprisoned is the “same type of thinking”as believing those that commit lèse-majesté ought to be in prison. After all maybe murder is not wrong. Who knows? Let’s keep an open mind.

          • Fahundo says:

            I don’t see how holding badwrong opinions is comparable to actual violence. That’s kind of the pattern though. Equating opinions with violence makes it easier to justify reprisals against people who hold those opinions.

          • Brad says:

            In the rush to make a clever Orwell reference, you seemed to have missed that suggesting that perhaps people ought not to patronize a shop owned by a nazi is just words too.

          • Fahundo says:

            The point at which words cease to be merely words is when they incite people into action. Gathering a mob together to ostracize someone is going quite a bit farther than simply having a private belief.

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:

            To be clear: you believe that the “only unifying belief” of the alt-right is their principled opposition to (for example) people being fired and/or blacklisted based on their political beliefs?

            Does Mike Cernovich not count as alt-right?

            I mean, sure: members of the alt-right probably get fired more often than they get their opponents fired. But that’s not because of some principled commitment to free speech. It’s because people tend to find the alt-right’s beliefs more loathsome than their opponents’. If the alt-right could get people fired just for marching against white nationalists in Charlottesville, do you honestly believe they would have held back?

            You can draw a line around the group of people who genuinely believe “If it was/would have been wrong to do to civil rights protesters, it is equally wrong to do to any ideology”, but you’ve got to be kidding if you think that line marks the border of the alt-right.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            Approximately, yes.

            They tend to make allies of those who would get fired, however, meaning their cluster includes a lot of situational allies (who would jump ship if their ideology were in charge of persecution).

          • Brad says:

            Who here said anything about a private belief? How would anyone else even know about a private belief?

          • Fahundo says:

            It’s the belief of an individual, right?

            Private as in belonging to an individual, not private as in kept secret.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            If it is a form of social violence to refuse to hire one sort of person, it is the same kind of social violence to refuse to hire another.

            We live in a capitalist society. This means working is basically a necessity, and arguably a right. Attempting to deny somebody this is, in the context of our society, violence.

          • Brad says:

            Private as in belonging to an individual, not private as in kept secret.

            Is the belief that one ought not to patronize a nazi somehow not “belonging to an individual”? What does the inaccurate but emotionally laden term “mob” add to the argument? Is the idea that persuasive speech is objectionable but unpersuasive speech is fine? If someone reads a nazi’s blog and goes out and kills a Jewish person is it then okay to boycott his store because now he’s “incited”?

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald

            If it is a form of social violence to refuse to hire one sort of person, it is the same kind of social violence to refuse to hire another.

            I don’t even know what social violence means. So I don’t think I’ve ever suggested than anything qualifies.

            We live in a capitalist society. This means working is basically a necessity, and arguably a right. Attempting to deny somebody this is, in the context of our society, violence.

            It is not a necessity. I know people that don’t work. It is certainly not a right. Not even in the most mixed of mixed economies. And if refusing to hire someone is violence then I want to report google for assault. Because they just recently refused to hire me.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            So you oppose affirmative action, I take it?

          • Fahundo says:

            Is the belief that one ought not to patronize a nazi somehow not “belonging to an individual”?

            It is, but it becomes more than just a belief when people act on it. I don’t see nearly as many people rounding up jews for slaughter as trying to get people fired for political disagreements.

            What does the inaccurate but emotionally laden term “mob” add to the argument?

            In what way is it inaccurate? It’s usually either a mob or a company preemptively trying to avoid a mob.

            Is the idea that persuasive speech is objectionable but unpersuasive speech is fine?

            The idea is that speech directly tied to action is different from speech on its own.

            If someone reads a nazi’s blog and goes out and kills a Jewish person is it then okay to boycott his store because now he’s “incited”?

            If he told people to go kill jews, yes, but then I’m pretty sure he’s committed a crime, and boycotting him would probably be pointless.

          • albatross11 says:

            Thegnskald:

            Your notion of “social violence” bends the word all out of shape. Refusing to associate with you, refusing to do business with you, or even refusing to do business with anyone who does business with you is not violence. It may be bad, even worse than unquestionable violence like punching you in the nose, but it’s not the *same thing* as violence.

            Just as there are many bad behaviors w.r.t. sex that don’t violate consent, there are many bad behaviors in the world that don’t amount to violence. Confusing those bad behaviors with violence makes it harder to think clearly, rather than easier.

          • albatross11 says:

            Fahundo:

            I believe (IANAL) in US law, simply writing an essay or giving a speech that advocated for some violent action like murdering Jews would not be a crime. This Popehat post explains how the law views incitement and threats.

          • Fahundo says:

            Also NAL, but the examples given in the article are all conditional statements, which I believe plays a big role in why they don’t count as real threats.

          • Brad says:

            IAAL, but the Brandenburg is neither nor there when talking about morality.

            I find it a very odd standard that determines whether or not something is immoral on the basis of what third parties do. The position outlined would seemingly allow a blog post to merely words for years until read by the right (or wrong?) person and then boom, it’s incitement and violence and not at all the same thing as just have “badwrong opinions” which only some kind of fascist would change how he interacts with another person over.

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald

            I’m genuinely puzzled as to how you came to that conclusion. It seems like a fairly out there false dichotomy.

            Either I believe that working is a necessity and maybe a right, or if not then I must believe that companies ought not put a thumb on the scale on behalf of black job applicants?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            The difference between “You should kill these people” and “You should kill this person” is a legally relevant one, as far as free speech goes, and for good reason. Likewise, there is a gulf of difference between “You shouldn’t ever hire these people” and “You shouldn’t ever hire this person”.

            And how old are you? Do you just take affirmative action for granted? There is a history to the arguments for it, and the necessity of work to modern existence played a core part in those arguments.

            And if the arguments have changed, that is one thing. But keep in mind a lot of people who want affirmative action, only want it because they see work as a necessary part of modern existence, or at least participation in the modern world. If you want to keep affirmative action around, you should pay attention to the reasons people do. I hate to go conservative, but don’t burn the fucking support structures for the things you like down, just to try to crush Bad People.

            (And point taken, albatross. I am playing fairly loosely with language here. Unfortunately there is not a good word to convey the bad-thing being spoken of, or at least not one I know.)

          • Brad says:

            @Thegnskald

            The difference between “You should kill these people” and “You should kill this person” is a legally relevant one, as far as free speech goes, and for good reason. Likewise, there is a gulf of difference between “You shouldn’t ever hire these people” and “You shouldn’t ever hire this person”.

            Not really. The legal test for incitement has to do with imminent lawless action. An exhortation to go out and kill Jews in area with lots of Jews could just as easily lead to imminent lawless action as an exhortation to go out and kill a particular Jew in a place near where that particular Jew happens to be.

            And how old are you? Do you just take affirmative action for granted? There is a history to the arguments for it, and the necessity of work to modern existence played a core part in those arguments.

            Old enough to have listened to the oral arguments in Grutter and Gratz. And have read all the briefings on both sides. Not old enough to remember the original debates under JFK.

            If that’s old enough for you, then I have to disagree that necessity of work was core to the arguments. At least since Bakke in 1978, the benefits of diversity have been central to the arguments. Whether that’s pretextual is a different question and one that’s probably impossible to answer, but that’s where the debate has been.

            And in fact you can see that pedigree all the way down into the contemporary debates. Damore argued the value of diversity for conservative voices, not that conservatives need jobs or they will starve and so it is wrong not to hire them.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Diversity was the argument for why it is a good idea to embrace the changes of affirmative action; it is the argument to the critics, and only surfaced in the late 70s when people started getting fed up with affirmative action.

            It wasn’t the argument for why affirmative action was necessary in the first place.

          • Deiseach says:

            It is not a necessity. I know people that don’t work.

            Brad, I’d love to be one of those people. Unfortunately, since I did not win the Euromillions lottery draw or invent Google or arrange to be born the scion of filthy plutocrats or am not yet old enough for the state pension nor have disabilities sufficiently advanced as of yet to permit me to claim such a benefit, I have to work to get money to live.

            So damn straight work is a necessity. You can think better than that, you can argue better than that, don’t let polemical rage drown your good sense so you end up arguing the equivalent of “but unless I strap you to a rack, it’s not torture, it’s [euphemism of the day]”.

        • Fahundo says:

          I find it a very odd standard that determines whether or not something is immoral on the basis of what third parties do.

          That’s not the standard I’m proposing. The standard I’m proposing differentiates between opinions and a call to action. Whether someone answers the call is irrelevant.

      • Jaskologist says:

        We got into this a bit in the Five More Years thread. dndnrsn has a much longer version of his comment there.

        I distilled the coalition down to “The left is lying to us; we need to try something different to stop them,” which isn’t far from your “progressive leftism ==fascism.” I don’t disagree with dndnrsn’s view that biodeterminism is a big factor, but I don’t think it’s an essential factor so much as a truth everybody who’s been lied to feels they can rally around. It’s a Schelling Point, but it’s not the reason people are looking for new Schelling Point.

        • Well... says:

          That seems pretty much in line with what I said, except I specified avenues in which the Left was lying: social justice, PC, and globalism. The all-trite isn’t mad at the Left for espousing bad economic policy for example.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are aspects of biodeterminism that are more-or-less forbidden in mainstream media culture for tribal reasons, but that are also pretty obviously true. That makes for a pretty powerful rallying point.

            Sex differences in physical traits (strength, speed) are probably the biggest win here, since there are lots of somewhat-prominent people saying obvious nonsense about this. (Though the fact that so few people really get the difference between a distribution, the mean of the distribution, and individuals sampled from it means that plenty of people who know there are sex differences also get things comically wrong. The exact same thing happens w.r.t. other h.bd ideas.)

      • albatross11 says:

        I’d say the all-trite is made up of dissident members of the right who don’t like the mainstream Republican party and mainstream Republican think-tank views. As such, I think they (at least the grownups) are not actually all that unified in terms of ideology. The h.bd, manosphere, and neo-reac-tion types don’t necessarily have all that much in common, even if they kind-of see each other as more-or-less allies.

        I’ve read Sailer’s blog and Greg Cochran’s blog for some years now, including a lot of comment threads. If I had to summarize the sense I got from the whole community there, it would be skepticism about the wisdom of the people running things in the US. Skepticism about the received wisdom from media, academia, government, and industry, and about both their good intentions for the nation and their actual ability to make good decisions.

        • Well... says:

          If you had to specify what received wisdom Sailer et al are skeptical about, do you think PC, SJ, and globalism would sum it up?

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not sure what globalism entails. Steve’s slogan for the elite wisdom is something like “invade the world, invite the world, in hock to the world.” I’ve seen a lot of skepticism there about our foreign policy (endless wars in the middle east, establishing an Africa command so we can more efficiently get people killed in countries 5% of Americans can find on an unmarked map), and also about domestic economic policy (deficit spending, bank bailouts, “too big to fail,” allowing huge mergers to go through). (ETA: free trade is another area of great skepticism.)

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think there’s a problem here, and I don’t have time to ponder it on the meta-level, but on the object level you’ve defined alt-right entirely as reactionary:

      Only a few ideas actually unite the alt-right: a reaction against political correctness, social justice, and globalism.

      And then you put Pat Buchanan in there and up at the top. Pat Buchanan is a paleoconservative, a traditionalist who was always a traditionalist. His views haven’t changed in…ever. He’s not a reactionary saying “this PC/SJ/Globalism is bad,” he’s a traditionalist who’s always been arguing for the benefits of traditional culture, social values, and nationalism. This does not fit.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Thinking about it more – I think you’re missing another group: the Hucksters. Some people attaching themselves to the whole shebang seem more interested in lining their pockets than anything else. Take Cernovich: he’s (buy my book) very clearly (buy my book) a guy who’s seen a bunch of people (buy my book) he can try and sell stuff too. Milo might fall into this (crossover with the trolls) category too – he went from “gamers are basement dwelling virgins” to “gamers are the brave first line of defence against the thought police” awful quick. Alex Jones might fall into this group – in his custody case, it wasn’t clear whether he really believes the stuff (like he said he did) or whether he’s playing a role (like his lawyer kind of did) – but he sure hawks enough products.

    • SamChevre says:

      I would add an intellectual note: a chunk of the all-trite (Derbyshire, Heather Mac Donald) are the American version of one of the European rights–the Gaullists–the secular nationalists. Hence the “alt”–the American right has been historically business-focused, or Christian.

  12. onyomi says:

    Libertarian atheists are fond of pointing out similarities between statism and theism–desire to submit to a higher power and all that.

    There are good evolutionary reasons for humans to have an in-born respect for authority. Has anyone suggested, then, that the religious impulse is actually a side effect of that, rather than the other way around?

    This doesn’t necessarily imply anything about the veracity of theism: ability to see stars (and thereby navigate by them, etc.) may not have been selected for, but simply arisen as a side effect of other, heavily selected-for benefits of being able to see. Yet that does not mean stars are an illusion.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think respect for authority is all that is to theism. For me, the big draw of theism is purpose in life (atheism cannot, logically, offer anything close), rather than any particular longing for subservience.

      • yodelyak says:

        Theism was very convenient for friends of mine I knew in college, in that it let them keep the I/thou respect-for-authority and meaning-as-received-from-authority of dualism. Eventually the weirdness of a guy-in-the-sky got too hard for some of them, and they had dramatic “okay fine I’m totally an atheist and there is no meaning, I guess I’m a nihilist and so should you be, although what is this ‘should'” moments.

        For me, since I was very little “god” was never about a guy-in-the-sky. It was about a pro-social recognition that nobody has a monopoly on divine spark, and we’d all (almost all?) prefer to feel throughout our lives that we had/will have pro-social, net-positive, meaningful lives, but our own actions will fall far short of what would have been ideal had we had a gods-eye view or god-like powers against akrasia or temptation, so we rely on tradition and community and prayer and etc. When my friends went all “god is dead” I thought they were publicly announcing a purely anti-social attitude toward the divine-spark value of others–effectively announcing they hoped to have anti-social, net-negative, charnel-ground and, with respect to others at least, narrativeless, meaningless lives. It shook several close friendships before I (sort of) learned not to take “god is dead” as a statement informing whether people were planning to be pro-social. Weird, huh?

        I didn’t have any of these words for all this until I’d spend some time with meaningness.com. It’s pretty good.

    • Levantine says:

      Has anyone suggested, then, that the religious impulse is actually a side effect of that, rather than the other way around?

      I’ve seen it in online discussions in the aftermath of the release of “The God Delusion.”

      Scanning of my own religious feelings – and I point out that even an atheist like AC Clarke said that they naturally occur in all normal humans – fails to yield support to that thesis. The mental evolution proceeds just differently. It was stresses and frustrations of reaching toward goals like liberty, infinity, general bettering of the human condition, that reminded me that “higher” is NOT necessarily the only direction to be interested in: You may get so high in terms of achievement that you’re alone, and the winds of history can blow you off like a leaf of grass from a mountain ridge. You can fall, and fall bigly. All the benefits from your enlightenment visions is just one side of the coin: the other is the resistance experienced in everyday life. Being an inquisitive and critically thinking mind, you ask increasingly many questions with the end result that questions is all that remains. Of course, you make one step further and induce from them the idea of the whole world as one giant enigma. A further step further is to tentatively conceptualise the answer to that enigma as the origin of everything. Look, it looks like that “God” notion, – you notice a likeness and shrug your shoulders. This super-huge problem to be cracked demands your complete investment, and also trying to be a person of integrity that lives fully to its maximum, you approach these notions not just from abstract thinking perspective but as personally, with all the mental associations, intuitions etc. that arise in you. They are all likely to help. Among those associations there is one thread which is the parental metaphor. But, your intuitions as a whole are far more complex. Personally I never felt like reducing them to respect for authority … There is an authority of ‘facts,’ ‘reality,’ the structures that happen to be around you, circumstances you can’t wish away. Those circumstances, like walls of a deep cave, are cold (indifferent) to my Enlightenment-based sentiment. Interestingly that that parallels Dawkins’ point how they’re indifferent to sentiments produced by religion.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      A quick, surface-level thought, not any kind of in-depth analysis, is noting how often religions challenge established authorities. From Jesus to Mohammed to the Protestant Reformation, there’s lots of instances of people using religion to challenge the powers-that-be.

      Now, my first instinct is to respond to this with, “Ah, but aren’t they just appealing to some other authority in an effort to displace the old one?” But, I feel you could respond that way to ANY movement challenging entrenched hierarchies, not just religious challenges – which would make it tough to prove that ANYTHING is truly anti-authoritarian at heart.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I disagree that statism-after-atheism comes from innate respect for authority. I believe it’s a manifestation of the Just World Fallacy.

      There is a natural longing for justice. The virtuous are rewarded, the wicked are punished, and everyone gets what they deserve in the end. When bad things happen to good people and you can no longer rely on the eventuality of God’s justice, people want to make justice here on earth. And they get very insistent about it.

      See the reaction to school shootings. Thought and prayers from the religious (which are sincere…I’ve sincerely prayed to God for mercy and justice for the victims and perpetrator of the Parkland shooting), and demands for immediate action from the statists.

      Unfortunately, people are awful at most things, dispensing justice included. So I don’t think reliance on the state to dispense justice in many circumstances works out well. You just wind up with injustice of a different sort.

    • onyomi says:

      I will add that I don’t think “the religious impulse” is a simple phenomenon: it probably combines a bunch of different urges: just world, explanatory power, fear of unknown, longing to belong to something bigger than yourself, sense of purpose, and so on.

      Personally, I’ve always had a pretty anti-authoritarian mindset. I don’t find myself feeling I should respect so-and-so just because they are an authority figure.

      However, what got me thinking along these lines was the following:
      I’m one of those “spiritual but not religious” people: I think there is something to spirituality in the practice of e.g. meditation, but I don’t really extrapolate that to make any claims about the physical universe, other than, maybe, “meditation is good for my brain.”

      I have, however, felt what I might call “sacred” or “beatific” feelings, sometimes while meditating, occasionally while listening to music, or viewing something vast and unfathomable like the ocean or Grand Canyon.

      Somewhat disturbingly for an ancap; I find certain statist symbols can also illicit this feeling to a degree. Standing on the National Mall, for example. And I think state architecture is intentionally designed to illicit such feelings, as are various forms of state pageantry, like military parades (note how mesmerizing the North Korean mass games are, even as you know that cruelty and oppression undergirds them).

      So when I say respect for state authority and longing for the sublime/great unknown seem to come from a similar place, it’s not because I feel as if I have this urge to “submit” myself to something Fifty Shades of Grey style, and, since no human is good enough I chose God, but rather something like: maybe humans are wired to feel a sense of deep purpose and fulfillment when perceiving something much greater than themselves and especially if, at the same time, feeling a part of it. If so, it’s conceivable that that wiring is adaptive because it enhances group cohesion rather than because being religious have survival and reproduction value (though it’s possible it’s both).

      • Levantine says:

        From what you say in your second comment it follows that your use of the word ‘authority’ in the initial post was ‘weird,’ strange: an authority acting upon a person that is a part of the same authority.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think this is a good observation. In his OP onyomi should have said something like “purpose,” “structure,” “order,” or “harmony” rather than “authority.”

          • onyomi says:

            Well, but my point is that maybe (at least one of the) adaptations is respect for authority and (at least certain types of) religious feeling the epiphenomenon.

    • Anon. says:

      I highly recommend Scott Atran’s book on religion, it does a great job of tackling the intersection of evolution and religion.

  13. Odovacer says:

    I have a naive question about politics/life. Do politicians/activists/others ever clearly and plainly talk about the non-monetary costs of their proposals? Like for example, did GW ever mention the potential human cost in terms of American and Iraqi lives before the Iraq War?

    Some other examples:

    Do car proponents ever mention that, yes automobiles are worth it (convenience, transportation of goods, etc), but there will be ~40k traffic deaths/yr in the US, as well as pollution from cars, injuries, etc and in the end this is worthwhile?

    Legalized hard drugs potentially will lower violence, but will potentially cause more people to O.D. or not live up to their potential/ruin their lives.

    Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes when I hear policy proposals, or even just people defending the status quo, they rarely talk about the costs involved. Usually it’s all benefits and very little costs involved. They just brush it off as minor in terms of money or a small inconvenience for society.

    Is one obligated to talk realistically about costs? Or does that really fall upon one’s opponent? I don’t know. I just think it would be refreshing to hear people state the honest costs of their policies and proposals.

    • Evan Þ says:

      No, the vast majority of the time, politicians don’t. Most people make decisions largely from emotion, and hearing about a policy’s costs pushes them against it even if it’s then explained how the costs are worth it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Politicians advocating for things don’t, they just present the upsides. Their political opponents do, presenting only the downsides.

    • Protagoras says:

      People in general seem to have trouble talking about trade-offs, tending instead to talk only about the benefits of things they’ve decided to be in favor of and the costs of things they’ve decided to be against.

    • Well... says:

      Sort of the inverse:

      Scott Adams once suggested we choose a number of American lives lost to terrorism we would find acceptable and use this to determine how many Muslim immigrants we should allow per year, given that some % of them will commit terrorist acts (that, unlike terrorist acts committed by Americans, could have been easily prevented by not letting them immigrate).

      Caveat: it’s Scott Adams, so everything he says should be taken with a big grain of salt.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Ah, I liked this quote by Orwell

      “Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

  14. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Suppose that Hansen is right and education is 80% signalling, and that there’s no way to get out of the trap.

    Would it be possible to spend more “education” time on learning useful things? Do we have any idea what those would be?

    Do people here have things they wished they’d learned in school?

    The signalling thing may be nastier than it looks. Perhaps part of the signal is showing off that you and/or society can spend all that time uselessly.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do people here have things they wished they’d learned in school?

      Yes! There are loads of things that could be taught instead of what’s basically forgettable trivia:
      – Speed reading (it’s like improved literacy!).
      – More foreign languages (and/or more time for them, not just 1h/week that can be mostly ignored; ideally for every language, there should be 1-2h per schoolday).
      – Hand-to-hand combat.
      – Marksmanship.
      – Driving a car.
      – Accounting.
      – How the law actually works (“For your homework, take this parking ticket, and make the best legal case you can that you shouldn’t be fined.”).
      – Basic plumbing.
      – Practical electrical engineering (not talking Ohms law and battery-powered lights, I’m talking “how to fix a broken power outlet”).
      – Cooking (I know Home Econ exists, but people still leave school being unable to cook, somehow; I figure it’s lack of time allocated here – I had HE and all learned there was how to make a salad and that graters are sharp enough to make that salad a mystery meat salad).
      – Using common power tools (drills, saws, etc).

      • Chalid says:

        I mostly hate your list, but I’m curious what people here on SSC have to say about speed reading.

        • Incurian says:

          I liked the list except for languages and speed reading. I gave speed reading a short try (not necessarily a fair one), and found it decreased my reading comprehension enough to not be worth it, despite the claims that this shouldn’t happen. Either I was doing it wrong, I’m weird/dumb, or the claims are wrong/misleading (perhaps they only measure material that is relatively easy to absorb, or the average baseline comprehension is so low it can’t get much worse).

          • Anonymous says:

            AFAIK, people have different levels of trainability in reading speed. I can read with full comprehension about twice as fast as average. A friend of mine can read something like ten times that fast, apparently also with full comprehension. “Speed reading” is better understood as “faster reading” – there’s nothing wrong with increasing your reading speed moderately, and stopping at that, because more gains are predicated on losing comprehension.

        • Deiseach says:

          Speed reading is for people who don’t want to read, they just want pre-digested information implanted directly into their brain. It’s for people who get their facts from listicles. It’s for those who would prefer to watch a video, which is why everything nowadays seems to be “Watch our Youtube video instead of us writing it all down”.

          While I have some sympathies about ‘just give me the plain information’, my biases lie the other way: I can’t extract anything useful from a rambling twenty minute video where ten minutes are jokes and anecdotes and long-winded introductions, five minutes is ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ over what they’re trying to say, and there are five useful minutes of information in the whole thing. I find it easier to read written text and extract what I need from that, and speed reading is like trying to force my brain through a sieve and make anything useful out of the resulting mush. It’s all about KEY WORDS and BULLET POINTS and stripping out context so you get a result out of a page of text something like BATTLE…1845… WON BY GUY and you think you’ve learned something, and you may have indeed extracted enough ‘information’ to pick the right option on a multiple-choice question, but you certainly don’t understand anything about what actually the whole thing was.

          • Randy M says:

            Your criticism of video presentation does not make it sound as if people who enjoy it are the target for speed-reading.

        • yodelyak says:

          Hyper-lexical people are a real thing; it’s not made up. I read faster than I can vocalize, by a little bit, after getting some good support for speed reading in 6th grade. It’s probably not available for everyone, and I have no idea what the best ages/IQ ranges are for the benefit… could be pre-school is best, could be any age, could be only works while “young” meaning not above thirtyish, but no one agrees exactly where the line is or everyone agrees it’s a blurry line.

          A very dyslexic friend of mine, who I’ve seen visibly struggle with reading simple paperwork, has a specialty tape player that can play audio books at adjustable speeds, up to about 10x normal speaking I think. It just sounds like a screech to me, above about 3x normal speaking speed, but he has good comprehension at 4x or 5x faster, as proved by talking with him about his favorite presidential biographies. It’s not in doubt that our brains can “hear” faster than we can talk, and that consequently reading is better for speed than talking.

          • Nornagest says:

            I read faster than I can vocalize, by a little bit, after getting some good support for speed reading in 6th grade.

            That’s speed reading? I thought everyone could do that.

            On the audio side of things, I’ve spent a fair amount of time taking MOOC courses, and experimented with different speed settings for the lectures to save myself time. I found my comprehension started suffering after about 1.5x, but I’ve talked to people that say they can do 2x or more without any problems.

        • keranih says:

          Why do you hate the list? (I’m asking both ‘what on the list do you find objectional’ and ‘why do you object to those things’?)

      • – Cooking (I know Home Econ exists, but people still leave school being unable to cook, somehow; I figure it’s lack of time allocated here – I had HE and all learned there was how to make a salad and that graters are sharp enough to make that salad a mystery meat salad).

        I had cooking classes in school, but learnt nothing lasting from them due to intensely disliking them and blotting them out from my memory.

        • Anonymous says:

          Whereas I had literally that one lesson where we made salad. I still remember it.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          The cooking classes in school sucked. Well, I guess they were good for 7th and 8th graders, but we didn’t learn how to sweat vegetables or sear steak.

          • Aapje says:

            Cooking lessons are probably a magnet for complaints:
            – I’m vegetarian and don’t want Timmy to handle/cook meat
            – I’m Jewish/Muslim and don’t want Timmy to handle/cook pork
            – Timmy is allergic to gluten & milk, why does he have to prepare food he can’t eat?
            – Why is making the food from my culture not taught?

            Then again, I never had a cooking lesson, so I might be talking out of my ham.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Why is making the food from my culture not taught?

            Quick management tip: whoever complains just volunteered!

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I think this is all solvable by those students taking different classes and learning different lessons.

            We actually get this at work a lot, because certain people complain about being on the restricted menu. Basically, there are a few vegetarian and vegan dishes that serve as the catch-all for anyone that has dietary restrictions. We’re not bringing you gluten-free pizza and we’re not going through the effort of getting you zabiha meat, so enjoy your salad.

          • quaelegit says:

            Is sweating just slower, lower temperature sauteeing/stir-frying? (I got that impression from here: https://www.reluctantgourmet.com/how-to-sweat-vegetables/).

            Agree that some basic cooking (and maybe more importantly MEAL PLANNING) techniques seems like a really useful thing to teach to all kids. However, I don’t see how to solve the huge argument that seems bound to emerge about WHICH techniques are “basic” and necessary… it seems like a huge headache that I can see schools wanting to avoid. [And also of course the sort of complaints Aapje mentions…]

            Edit: ADBG posted his reply above while I was typing this, which answers my concerns I guess. I think it would be hard to implement well, but I’m not sure that’s more true for cooking classes than other types of classes.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Quick management tip: whoever complains just volunteered!

            Eventually a handful of complainers are doing all the work and everyone else does nothing, but you can’t complain about people who do nothing or you get the job of fixing them…..

          • baconbits9 says:

            The problem with cooking classes are the same with all classes, skills need to repeated to make them sink in. There is no point to having a cooking class if the kids wait until they move out to try any of the stuff. 3-4 months later, let alone 3-4 years later, they will have forgotten enough to prevent them from trying on their own.

            Large chunks of families spend less and less time cooking at home, and even when they do its often heavily pre packaged. Kids coming home wanting to try out cooking themselves are a pain for the parent who hasn’t cooked an in depth meal in 10 years.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Is sweating just slower, lower temperature sauteeing/stir-frying?

            Yeah, sort of. The end goal is different. As your article points out, you don’t want your foods to brown:

            Why? Because in a sweat, you don’t want the food to brown, and we all know that that golden brown color of the Maillard reactions mean great flavor.

            It’s not particularly hard, but none of cooking is really THAT hard. The biggest obstacle to learning the class room is repetition. I imagine most students getting bored if I tell them to spatch-cock and broil a chicken 20-50 times.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Would it be possible to spend more “education” time on learning useful things?

      Sure, but part of the signalling lies wasting time studying impractical things, like analyzing 18th century French poetry. If Harvard starts including too much HVAC training in the curriculum, it makes them seem more like a trade school.

      By analogy, one could ask if fashionable clothing could or should be made more practical. And the answer is “no,” since part of the point of fashion is to waste resources on things that are impractical. Harvard is the equivalent of an elegant pair of high heels. Or a diamond encrusted tie clip.

      • Deiseach says:

        There’s no reason someone who qualifies as a HVAC technician should not be able to find they like 18th century French poetry, and part of the ideal of an education (rather than vocational training “shape the cogs to slot into the vacant space in the work force according to what employers want this month”) is to let people get a taste of everything so they can be exposed to what makes a rounded human being and not a ‘walking tool’.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I went to school so I could make more money, personally…

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The problem with that ideal is that you can’t and shouldn’t force people to appreciate the arts.

          I’m hardly an uncultured barbarian. This weekend I chose to spend five and a half hours of my life watching a live performance of Parsifal, and I’m glad that I had the opportunity. But if watching it had been a precondition of my employment I would have wanted to burn the Metropolitan Opera to the ground.

          People shouldn’t have to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt and spend years of their life before they’re allowed to work just on the off chance that they might like Wagner. Wagner will still be there waiting for them after they’ve got their lives sorted out.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m glad you brought it up here, since I’ve raised the point enough in the past. But let me support you–
            Education as a means of bettering oneself is noble; that doesn’t mean it is rational for everyone to do so at great cost as part of what is marketed as a job-enabling and salary boosting credential, especially if the previous 12-14 years of education weren’t enough to do so.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I’m very sympathetic to this, but I’m also sympathetic to the idea that people would not go out and seek out these artsy/intellectual stuff on their own. Sometimes someone takes a class and it sparks a life long interest. And even people who like it might not study as hard as someone who has that structure of school, where you go to school and take tests.

            Now is worth it to go in >$10k debt for that? Probably not, but there’s something to the idea.

          • beleester says:

            Every time the topic of education shows up at SSC, I have to wonder what school all you people go to, where instead of giving you an education in your chosen major, they apparently strap you into a chair the moment you arrive and do nothing but make you listen to dead composers and poets.

            Because at my college, I fulfilled my fine arts requirements with two courses. Not much of an imposition. You could meet all your gen-ed requirements (fine arts, history, social science, etc) with just 6 courses. That’s one semester!

            (And there were plenty of alternatives if you decided the standard liberal arts suite wasn’t your thing. One of my two fine arts electives was called “Jamming with Laptops.”)

            If you think 18 credit-hours is still too much time spent on non-degree-related stuff, that the CS curriculum should teach you lambda calculus and nothing else, then fine, you can make that case. But arguing that it makes up a majority of the curriculum or that a few courses of Wagner are responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in tuition is just wrong. If you hacked out all the “well-roundedness” from my college’s curriculum, you’d shorten it by a semester at best.

            EDIT/Follow-up: As I understand it, the “degrees are only signaling” argument isn’t that colleges spend all their time on non-degree-related things, it’s that degree-related knowledge doesn’t persist outside the classroom. Hence, a degree is a signal that you can learn things, rather than proof that you know them.

            But if that’s the case, then why would our hypothetical “actually useful courses” persist outside the classroom any better than the current classes?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @beleester

            Things have changed. When I took CS at the University of Maryland I was able to meet my distribution requirements with an intro film course, an intro Shakespeare course, a History of Science course (deadly dull), a technical writing course, and a bunch of Physics courses.

            Maryland now requires 40 credits of General Education. Including two Diversity courses.

          • beleester says:

            Things haven’t changed. I looked at my university’s degree requirements before I posted that, and it’s still the same as it was when I graduated three years ago.

            Also, the requirements you linked include quite a few classes that will actually be useful – Academic Writing, Professional Writing, Mathematics, Analytic Reasoning, and Oral Communication. Most jobs are going to require you to communicate with people in writing and speech.

            It also says that the “I-series” and Diversity courses can be double-counted with the other requirements. So you’re looking at just 8 courses if you’re trying to minimize the amount of random bullshit you’re doing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Minimum forty credits (if you manage to double count all the I-series and Diversity courses), minimum 13 courses, more than 2 semesters. Whether you think these are useful or not are a different story; that’s still a lot more gen-ed than your 18 credit hours.

          • Deiseach says:

            People shouldn’t have to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt and spend years of their life before they’re allowed to work

            So far as I know, you can legally leave school at sixteen (depending on your state) and go into a job. Now, the kind of job you’ll get won’t be as good as one after a college degree, but that’s a different question to “why oh why don’t they cram all the useful knowledge into an intense one-year college course so Faceoolamabooksoft can employ nineteen year old engineers at top dollar?”

            Why do people go thousands of dollars into debt? Because they think they’ll get a good job out of it, and increasingly having a “good job” is the difference between “my employer provides health insurance so if I get sick, I’m covered; also I do earn a wage that permits me to live reasonably well and save money at the same time”.

            We doesn’t want kids spending money and time for nothing but signalling? Hey, they can all leave school even as old as eighteen and get jobs in McDonalds, problem solved!

            ‘Well I don’t want a crappy no-minimum-wage job standing on my feet all day that goes nowhere and I can be fired in the morning?’ That’s a completely different question. One-year college may or may not be the solution there, but you’re still saying college (vocational or not) is the solution, which brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to the original and separate question: is college just expensive signalling or does it have any usefulness?

        • fortaleza84 says:

          There’s no reason someone who qualifies as a HVAC technician should not be able to find they like 18th century French poetry

          I agree, but I have no idea what your point is. Did I suggest otherwise?

        • rlms says:

          There are important differences between school (which has the main purpose of occupying 5-16 year olds in some way, and is cheap), and university (which is not obligatory, and cost a lot more).

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “By analogy, one could ask if fashionable clothing could or should be made more practical. And the answer is “no,” since part of the point of fashion is to waste resources on things that are impractical.”

        Fashionable clothing has become a lot more practical, especially for women.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Fashionable clothing has become a lot more practical, especially for women

          Can you give me a couple specific examples to help me understand? TIA.

          • keranih says:

            I’d also be interested in an answer.

            My day-to-day clothing is more comfortable/practical than the fancy wear of the 1940’s, but my day-to-day clothing is also the opposite of fashionable.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Good Q. I wonder if these signals are partially self-fulfilling. For instance, if Harvard drops math and adds in basket weaving, companies think lower of the university. Theoretically this shouldn’t matter, because the students going there are of the same quality…but students are sensitive to even short-term fluctuations in diploma quality, so they shift to MIT and Princeton almost immediately.

      The movement between equilibrium might be weird. Basically, in this case the perception of the employer is less responsive than student applications.

      A university with a perception of some quality, but not terribly differentiated, might be able to pull this off. So in Illinois you have U of Chicago, Northwestern, and then Illinois-Urbana. Then you have UIC and UIS (the other two state schools) then other middling schools like SIU and Eastern Illinois, plus places like Loyola, Depaul, Bradley…

      Did I just throw a lot of schools at you? Okay, yes, that’s the point. So if the top schools (Urbana, Northwestern, U of Chicago) do something stupid, they could seriously impact their brand. If Bradley does something stupid like replace math with Krav Maga, employers might not even notice. Bradley can retain its brand of SOME quality, so it isn’t really hurting, and students will still attend.

      • albatross11 says:

        ADBG:

        I wonder how much that’s true, though. The immediate counterexample that comes to mind is that a lot of pretty good (but mostly not Ivy league) schools have had scandals w.r.t. their football or basketball stars keeping up good grades without bothering to come to class or do any work. I don’t think these scandals generally undermine the value of the diploma, though I haven’t looked for hard data on the question.

        If someone does a really in-depth expose next week that shows that Yale (say) is letting their students pass classes where they never attend or do any work, will we actually see the value of a Yale degree fall by a lot? I am not 100% sure. Maybe it would over time, but I’m not entirely convinced. Are there any actual examples of something like this happening? My impression is that it’s *really* hard for Ivy League colleges to drop a whole lot in status–probably it’s something that would take decades.

    • onyomi says:

      I really like Caplan’s book and am mostly convinced by his arguments, though I was already predisposed to do so.

      One thing that struck me though: he notes that studies on “learning transfer” or “learning how to learn” show pretty poor results. And while I think he’s probably right that learning Latin mostly makes you better at Latin, and not at memorization or “thinking” in some general sense, the whole LessWrong thing, so far as I understand it, was mostly about learning to think, calibrate belief, etc., no?

      And I think it is possible to get better at such things by learning mental habits–learning to recognize common biases, learning to identify and quantify relevant stats, etc.

      So I think it is possible to learn better “epistemic hygiene,” as well as research skills, and how to actually go about learning things you want to learn, etc., but we spend very little time attempting to teach such skills directly in the current education system.

      • quaelegit says:

        It’s funny you mention Latin specifically because I think I learned most of what I know about grammar (in both Latin and English) from my high school Latin classes. All those different case/declension/tense/voice/mood/etc. endings really highlight the different ways words are used in communication. (Also gerunds vs. gerundives, participles, indirect speech, and more…) I think it improved my (English) writing and helped me word sentences more clearly.

        Although part of that was that my English teachers all seemed to dislike grammar and minimize time spent on it. My 10th grade English teacher actually scheduled the entire grammar unit for the three weeks she was out for surgery so a sub would cover it…

  15. Aapje says:

    I have noticed a decent number of references to Geert Wilders here lately, which made me realize that the people here are probably very much out of the loop with the most recent political developments in The Netherlands. There is a new kid on the block on the far right: Thierry Baudet.

    His new political party is called Forum for Democracy (FvD in the Dutch abbreviation) and they won 2 seats during the last election, which is a hard thing to accomplish. It’s generally far easier to get votes if one already has seats. In the latest polls, he is polling extremely well, at the level of a mid-sized party, not that far below where Geert Wilders is polling now (who doesn’t seem to be losing that many seats to Baudet). So if he actually manages to get as many votes for the next election as these polls suggest, he may become a significant factor, especially if he teams up with Wilders.

    While Wilders is mostly focused on opposing Islam, Baudet is much more focused on opposing multiculturalism and Social Justice. Baudet has written a book against oikophobia, using the word as the antithesis of xenophobia. So it refers to an irrational fear and distrust of Western culture. Presumably, he was inspired by British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, who first used the word this way.

    Where Wilders has made statements that go against (classic) liberalism, like desiring the deportation of millions of Muslims from Europe and closing mosques, Baudet seems more moderate. In general, Baudet seems far more intellectual* (and even a bit of a dandy, using Latin, making a big fuss about liking classical music, demanding to have a piano in his work office, etc). As a result, his voters are far better educated than those who vote for Wilders. So Baudet seems to be another step in the trend of Dutch politics separating in lower and middle/upper class parties.

    Baudet has been linked to the alt-right and H.B.D., because he had dinner once with Jared Taylor, whom Wikipedia describes as a white nationalist and white supremacist. Baudet argued that he is interested in hearing many different viewpoints and that he rejects white supremacy. Also, one of the FvD politicians has talked about IQ differences between peoples (but no one in the FvD has claimed that the IQ differences are biological, AFAIK). Note that this FvD politician is himself black, interestingly enough. Baudet has said that IQ differences between peoples is a scientific fact. Obviously, many people pattern matched this meeting with Jared Taylor and the statements about IQ differences to racism/white supremacy. A deputy prime minister claimed that Baudet wants to treat people differently based on race, which resulted in Baudet filing a charge of slander against her**.

    Finally, it’s notable that Baudet seems to believe in Red Pill/PUA theory, where men have to act like alpha males and where women want to be “taken by surprise, dominated and even overpowered”. This obviously got interpreted as support for rape culture, even though he later clarified that this should only happen with (implied) consent. He also stated that women tend to be less ambitious, more interested in “family things” and that they tend to excel less. So he got attacked for being a misogynist due to these statements.

    There is a decent chance that just like Wilders became fairly well known in the US, Baudet will too, so now you’ll be able to impress your friends by already knowing about him, when that happens.

    * Relatively speaking. Dutch politics doesn’t really have true intellectuals.
    ** Presumably, this is the rather typical culture war misunderstanding where one side argues that (biological and/or cultural) group differences exist as an argument against seeking equality of outcome, but some on the other side interpret it as not wanting to have equality of opportunity.

    • quaelegit says:

      Thanks for the primer! I feel like I’ve heard of Thierry Baudet before, but my familiarity with European politcs of any kind is limited to checking the BBC home page about once a month so probably not…

      Why doesn’t Dutch politics really have true intellectuals?

      [Also what is meant by “true intellectuals in politics”? My first thought of a “true intellectual politican” is President Bartlett from The West Wing — has a Nobel Prize in Economics, enjoys quoting Latin at people, gave his daughter an antique copy of De Rerum Natura for Christmas — but he is notably fictional and I’m not sure his backstory is very realistic. In the real world, perhaps Elizabeth Warren (was an econ professor, Scott has a post on one of her books, definitely a politician) or Jordan Peterson (psychology professor, definitely an intellectual, not sure to what extent he’s involved in politics)?]

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Member of Parliament Edmund Burke, who wrote a treatise on aesthetics before becoming famous for conservative political philosophy.

        • quaelegit says:

          Good example! There was definitely a lot of overlap between “intellectuals” and “politicians” in the Enlightenment. I don’t think there’s nearly as much overlap currently, or at least I can’t think of anyone right now who is very prominent in both politics and …philosophy/psychology/whatever fields count as “intellectual” now [except perhaps the two people I mentioned above].

          • Paul Douglas was both a U.S. senator and a fairly prominent economist.

            Elizabeth Warren (was an econ professor …

            Law professor.

          • quaelegit says:

            @DavidFriedman — Thank you for the example! I’m reading about Douglas on Wikipedia now, seems like an interesting figure.

            Also thanks for the correction on Warren’s field. (I originally got Peterson’s field wrong too but fortunately thought to check.) I guess she’s similar to you in that she was a law professor who wrote a lot about economics?

          • I don’t know Warren’s work, but my impression is that she was a law professor whose work involved applications of law to the economy. I don’t know whether she used economics to analyze the problems.

            I’m an academic economist who applied economics to making sense of the law, the field described as law and economics or economic analysis of law. It isn’t about “economic issues” in particular. From my standpoint, economics is relevant to virtually all of the law, including tort law, criminal law, contract law, … .

            On the subject of Paul Douglas. He was a liberal democrat. I remember my father saying that when he testified before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress it tended to end up with him and Douglas against the rest of the committee–because both being economists was more relevant than having different political views.

      • Aapje says:

        @quaelegit

        Why doesn’t Dutch politics really have true intellectuals?

        On second thought, my claim is way too dependent on how one defines intellectual. I have always had a bit of an issue with the term ‘intellectual’ anyway and also with how politicians (have to) abandon their principles for political gain. So better ignore that sentence, which was more of a put down than a fair statement.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Yes reading that list makes me think that having a PhD does not make one an intellectual. To me politics is kind of an opposite to intellectualism. Even the professors that become politicians, such as Senator Paul Wellstone, aren’t particularly deep thinkers. Or if they are, they keep these thoughts well off the campaign trail. Presumably one has to have a certain level of smarts to get a PhD, but it doesn’t necessarily make one a thinker.

  16. fortaleza84 says:

    Regarding Elephant in the Brain, it occurs to me that there should have been a chapter devoted to micro-aggressions since they are so common in everyday life. Why does it happen that call center representatives are sometimes rude or have a bad attitude? From the principles laid down in the book, I think they are following a subconscious instinct to jockey for social status by treating others as their social inferiors.

    • yodelyak says:

      It is weird how hard it is for people to be good at that job, isn’t it?

    • Loquat says:

      As a call center rep, I gotta say the crappiness of many call-center jobs is a factor, especially if you’re in a field where a high percentage of the callers are likely to be irate and/or want things you can’t do. It is particularly easy to get into a bad attitude when you get a caller who combines the traits of (a) treating you like an inferior to begin with, (b) demanding something you can’t do (not allowed, don’t have access because it’s a different department, not legal, etc), and (c) thinking your inability to do what they want is evidence you’re an idiot.

      There’s also the factor that management may not actually be optimizing for good service, and may instead be emphasizing metrics like “keep calls short” or “prevent callers from cancelling”. Remember that Comcast call recording that went viral a few years ago, where the rep spent several minutes desperately trying to persuade a guy not to cancel his service? That’s what happens when the call center reps are under heavy pressure to retain.

  17. In case you missed it …

    https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/statistical-flowers-for-algernon

    Is suicide really negatively correlated with intelligence, if you control for age and income/wealth?

    • tayfie says:

      Without finding any specific studies that seem reliable enough to cite, I can see some competing factors. To simplify, I will assume suicide represents extremely low quality of life.

      Intelligence is a great advantage in that it allows you to more accurately determine truth and make good decisions in any field. As well as judging among multiple choices better, intelligence increases the number of choices at any given point because it gives awareness of possibilities that are not obvious to everyone.

      With this in mind, there is no surprise that intelligence and suicide should be negatively correlated. All else equal, more intelligence should be a strict increase in the ability to achieve desires and quality of life.

      However, there is a competing effect. People who are too different are socially ostracized, so the people at the extreme ends of the spectrum become very lonely. Even when other people are nice, extreme high or low intelligence can be isolating because of the struggle to find people who understand you.

      What I think likely is that intelligence and suicide are negatively correlated to a point, but once you get high enough, the marginal benefit of being smarter is dominated by the marginal cost of being more isolated, and suicides begin going up again. I hope Scott does a post sometime on the negatives of intelligence.

    • Thegnskald says:

      If you control for income/wealth, you may be effectively removing the intelligent people from consideration who “check out” from society, and thus who are more inclined to check out of life.

      Which is to say, there is probably a strong correlation between concluding that life is bullshit, and that society is bullshit.

      Likewise, if intelligence is correlated with mental illness that makes one ill-suited for society, you can have a strong correlation between intelligence and suicide that goes away when you control for income.

      Or intelligence might be situationally adaptive; if you are surrounded by smart people, you probably have high income. If you aren’t, well, you are probably not living in an area where intelligence offers you many opportunities. So smart people living among smart people might be happy, but smart people living among non-smart people might be miserable and prone to suicide, and the difference gets eroded away when you control for income.

      So I am not so certain of this evidence. I am not sure it really demonstrates anything.

      It does leave me wondering if smart people are overrepresented among low-income individuals, however, which would be interesting if true, since intelligence is generally associated with higher income; it would imply a U-shaped proportional distribution. Never looked into it.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Fighting the hypothesis:

      If there’s an injection to increase intelligence, and the greatest risk of misery from intelligence is social isolation, then just give the injection to more people.

  18. maintain says:

    After reading Caplan’s The Case Against Education, I had a thought. If education really is for signaling, and not for learning, then we shouldn’t want to reform education.

    Imagine this:

    You are in charge of a college. In a flash of insight, you discover a way to make learning fun and interesting for almost everyone. Everyone who attends your college easily learns a lot, and has fun doing it.

    Suddenly your college is swarmed by all the rejects and dropouts who couldn’t make it in other schools. They are ecstatic! Learning is finally fun! You teach them a lot. They learn a lot. By any measure they have vastly more knowledge than graduates of any other college. You hand out degrees to all of them. They go out into the real world, get jobs, and suddenly discover that they are still the rejects and dropouts. They can’t do the work that their employers ask of them unless the work is interesting and rewarding, and it’s not.

    Employers start to notice that graduates of your college tend to make uniquely bad employees. Your college starts to get a bad reputation. People stop wanting to go to your college.

    Practical application: In his book, Caplan says that the classes he teaches are difficult because he asks his students to learn a lot. If he knows what he knows about the signaling theory of education, why does he bother trying to teach much in his classes? It seems like the correct utilitarian solution is to tell his students that he will give them an A if they earn money over the semester, and give the money to an effective charity.

    Just be like “Hey, we both know you won’t remember anything I teach you in this class, but the class still needs to be difficult or else my reputation as an academic suffers. So this semester, I’ve contracted you out to go earn $3000, to give to the Against Malaria Foundation. If you work hard, I’ll give you an A.”

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The problem here is that sometimes it matters whether you learned something.

      I just finished TAing a class of first year graduate students at an R1 institution that’s part of the Ivy League. They’re all smart and they’re all decently hard workers. But they haven’t retained anything at all from their undergraduate biochemistry coursework and it’s a serious problem getting them up to speed. They’re missing critical information needed to properly interpret the literature.

      It would be better if biomedical researchers obtained some degree of biomedical education in the sixteen years of school they have prior to starting their PhD.

      • Incurian says:

        Caplan does admit that STEM is useful for people going into one of those fields.

        ETA: In general, most of the extreme claims that are sometimes attributed to Caplan’s views on education are actually quite moderate and nuanced in the book.

      • maintain says:

        Yeah, that’s a good point. Caplan says education is only 80% signaling, not 100%, so a school would have to teach you for real 20% of the time, and then they would be free to waste the remaining time.

        Come to think of it, if they made school more efficient, maybe they would only have to spend 10% of the time teaching you, and then they could spend 90% on signaling, which would make your school even more prestigious. So maybe we do want to reform education

        • johan_larson says:

          Or maybe we could find a way to determine who is fit for office work in only one or two years, rather than four to eight. It’s a crazy dream, I know.

      • johan_larson says:

        But they haven’t retained anything at all from their undergraduate biochemistry coursework and it’s a serious problem getting them up to speed.

        I’d like to know how much of that is exaggeration for rhetorical effect. Because if it’s even 60% true, it’s kind of shocking. You work for a prestigious place, meaning your grad students are presumably well prepared and as such have studied the material you expect them to know. And now they don’t have a working knowledge of it, just a few years later? Very strange.

        • albatross11 says:

          My personal experience is that if I’ve studied something once and mostly forgotten the details over time, I’ll pick it up a lot more quickly the next time I look at it. Recently, I’ve been doing this with my oldest son as he studies math I studied 30 years ago. (My work involves a lot of math, but none of it is trigonometry.) I wouldn’t be surprised if something similar happened with those students.

          • Protagoras says:

            Yeah, I was going to say something similar. Studying something again that I’d studied but had to all appearances forgotten does tend to go much more quickly, and often I get a deeper understanding as well the second time around.

          • toastengineer says:

            I’ve been in college a lot more recently than most of the people here.

            I don’t think the college succeeded at conferring any understanding in the first place, is the thing. I went to a relatively prestigious four-year CS program and everyone seemed exactly as clueless at the end of that four years as they did at the beginning.

            One of the first things that happened in one of my 400-level classes was the instructor asking if anyone knew what an “if statement” was and proceeding to explain the concept of “if this statement is true, do this, if it is not do this.”

            I didn’t get the feeling a lot of the instructors knew what they were doing either. I transferred out (and immediately back in) to a very prestigious university (one of the candidates for President in my lifetime had graduated from there) that literally had a professor whose degree was in another field entirely teaching the 200-level CS courses.

            It was still a lot better than high school where “Programming I” and “Programming II” were literally just copying source listings out of a book while the teacher shopped on Amazon.

            Maybe this is unique to CS, which is a relatively young field after all, but it meshes with all the people saying “new graduates know literally nothing about what they were supposed to have been studying for four years.” If you’re supposed to be able to get a degree in CS without knowing what conditional branching is I imagine its possible to get a degree in chemistry without knowing what fractional distillation is.

          • Thegnskald says:

            My CS program wasn’t quite that bad, but…

            Well, it failed entirely to train me.to do actual coding. There is a world of difference between “write code to perform this kind of sort” and “maintain decade-old software”.

            I didn’t need training to do the first thing. First, because it is trivial, and second, because I have never coded anything that basic, and never intend to. Any sort function I need to program is sufficiently complex that that training doesn’t remotely compare.

            I think mostly college damaged my work ethic by training me to be comfortable skating by on zero effort.

          • albatross11 says:

            How on Earth would you get through a CS degree without writing enough code that the logic of an if-then-else statement was absolutely burned into your brain?

          • quaelegit says:

            @albatross11 — its not clear from toastengineer’s description whether people didn’t understand what and if statement was or merely didn’t respond to the instructor, leading the instructor to give a quick and (seems to me) unhelpful explanation.

          • toastengineer says:

            How on Earth would you get through a CS degree without writing enough code that the logic of an if-then-else statement was absolutely burned into your brain?

            I know!

            There were lots of programming assignments but it was pretty clear from people asking me for help and conversations I overheard that most folks there had no idea what they were doing. Not everyone, but maybe like… half. What I imagine was happening was that they just glued together samples off the Internet, shotgun-debugged until it compiled, and then submitted that for a D and then memorized-and-regurgitated for the test.

            Training you to be an academic computer scientist rather than a programmer is more of an expected failure, and I think that really is specific to CS.

          • Aapje says:

            You guys are making me feel better about my education, which was a bit weird in places, but not as silly as what you guys say.

            I once had to write a program for an exam, on paper, which was a rather strange experience. But most of it was rather sane.

          • albatross11 says:

            We had a summer student who clearly had come from that kind of program, a few years back. After a couple weeks, it was clear that he was a perfectly nice, well-intentioned guy who simply had no idea how to write any code that he didn’t copy and paste from stack exchange or the like.

          • keranih says:

            I once had to write a program for an exam, on paper, which was a rather strange experience. But most of it was rather sane.

            …not a programmer, but ages ago, back in the pre-2000 era, we-non-coder-track students had to do this. (And some of them were IF-THEN loops, too.)

            This was…this was BASIC.

          • Deiseach says:

            This was…this was BASIC.

            I groaned, but I also laughed, so well done! (And I suppose this makes me a dinosaur for getting the joke?) 🙂

          • keranih says:

            D, I hate to break it to you, but we ain’t dinosaurs *because* we get the joke.

            Causality, hon, it goes the other way.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Unfortunately I’m not exaggerating by much.

          Today they weren’t able to answer what the primary use of ATP is in the cell* nor what ATP is reduced to, among other basic questions of cell metabolism. It was the saddest thing I’d seen since one of my friends admitted that she didn’t know any of the properties of the different amino acids in her first year.

          That said, it’s not that strange. I saw this kind of studying a lot with pre-med students in undergrad. They memorize huge amounts of information right before the test, ace it, and then immediately forget everything they had studied. They can’t retain it because it doesn’t have any context and they don’t really care about it. I just hate to see graduate students behave that way.

          *Ion pumps, and if you’re wondering it’s not a trivial piece of information. Among other things, you literally cannot understand any neurology without knowing this fact.

          • The Nybbler says:

            nor what ATP is reduced to

            Ha, I remember that one from high school biology — ADP (diphosphate rather than triphosphate). In the years since that course, I’ve had reason to use that bit of information exactly once (in this comment), so I’m sure it’s been using valuable space in my brain I could have used for something important, like my sister’s birthday.

          • Jaskologist says:

            using valuable space in my brain

            Tangentially, is there any evidence that the brain has limited space? Can we actually fill it up so much that we run out of space for other stuff (or it leaks?)

            Logically, it seems like it should have space limitations, both in principle, and because why else would the brain bother garbage collecting stale memories? But is there any evidence for it or quantification?

          • Thegnskald says:

            As far as brain storage space goes, there was somebody here or on Less Wrong who linked to a case of a guy who (competitively?) memorized strings of numbers.

            Best in the world at it, and apparently he can still remember strings of numbers from thirty years ago.

            But he can’t memorize any more. He has apparently reached his memory capacity for that kind of information.

          • Randy M says:

            Ion pumps, and if you’re wondering it’s not a trivial piece of information. Among other things, you literally cannot understand any neurology without knowing this fact.

            Without knowing about ion pumps, sure. Without knowing whether ion pumps or protein systhesis or, say, vesicle transport use relatively more ATP? How come?
            (In some places I might aver knowing some neurology, but certainly not around these parts)

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            I believe that the trick is to link the random facts to existing knowledge, like details about your house. Then you can walk a route through your house and recall the elements that you stored as you think of the parts of the house that you recall. So in your mind, you approach the front door and see that it has a number on the door. That number is not there in reality, but you modified your memory to add it. Then you see the doormat, which has a different number on it, which is also a modified memory, etc.

            However, I imagine that you can only link a limited amount of random facts to the existing knowledge you have.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Randy M,

            In every cell type, the hardest thing that the cell has to do is to maintain ion gradients across the cell membrane and the various organelle membranes. It’s essential for survival and most of the cell’s resources are devoted to this.

            The neuron has a particularly tough job because of membrane depolarization. A typical neuron fires roughly every five milliseconds and in between each action potential it needs to repolarize the membrane by pumping ions against their concentration gradients. That takes an enormous amount of energy in the form of ATP which can only be produced by aerobic respiration in the mitochondria. Neurons need a constant supply of glucose and oxygen*, and the neurons must constantly transport mitochondria up and down the axon to provide local energy.

            It’s hard to imagine how you could study neurology without having this fixed in your mind.

            *If you’ve ever gotten caught in a rear naked choke and woken up on the floor, you know that constant isn’t an exaggeration. Cutting the blood supply to the brain will knock you out in a matter of seconds and there’s a decent chance that you’ll never wake up.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s makes a lot of sense put like that. Just off the top of my head it seemed odd that that one task should be so obviously central to the field; but then your explanation makes clear that that function is the molecular mechanism for how the neuron carries out it’s function.
            (In my defense I haven’t done much with biology in the decade and a half since my undergrad paper on memory)

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Randy M,

            I’m glad that the explanation I gave made sense!

            Also you don’t need any kind of defense for not knowing this. It’s not the sort of thing that anyone outside of biology or medicine ever needs to think about in their daily lives. It would be extremely unreasonable to look down on someone for not having highly specialized knowledge like this when I can’t even change my own oil.

            I’m just disappointed in my first years because this is exactly what they’ve been studying for years. They chose to live in a world of membranes and gradients and can’t be assed to learn about them.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Today they weren’t able to answer what the primary use of ATP is in the cell* nor what ATP is reduced to

            …I learned both of these facts in AP Bio. In high school. I still know them today.

            What the hell is these students’ core competency? Do they kno anything at all?

          • keranih says:

            That takes an enormous amount of energy in the form of ATP which can only be produced by aerobic respiration in the mitochondria.

            A quibble – ATP can and is also produced in ANaerobic respiration – but at 5% efficiency (2 ATP vs 38 per cycle).

            If one had to make up a list of “basic principles that adults need to understand in order to competently manipulate the world” I wouldn’t put the Kreb cycle on that list. IF-THEN, inertia, right angle triangles – yes. Dark sides of moons and the number of eggs a chicken produces in a day, no.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Andrew Hunter

            I suspect they’re the bio equivalent of programmers who can’t write FizzBuzz.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @keranih,

            A quibble – ATP can and is also produced in ANaerobic respiration – but at 5% efficiency (2 ATP vs 38 per cycle).

            Good catch, that was a deliberate oversimplification.

            I was originally going to qualify that statement by talking about aerobic glycolysis, AKA the Warburg effect in cancer, but it would have been a tangent.

            The Warburg effect isn’t as “inefficient” as the numbers might make it seem. Tumors which use aerobic glycolysis can actually react much more quickly to local changes in glucose availability and the byproduct lactose stimulates angiogenesis which is important for tumor growth. Almost all cancers still perform aerobic respiration to meet their baseline metabolic needs but they also use aerobic glycolysis to deal with unpredictable spikes in energy demand. It’s a very adaptive phenotype which is why more than 90% of cancers develop it.

            That said, if your neurons operated that way it would kill you. The brain already uses roughly a third of all the glucose in the body; Warburg effect tumors consume far far more glucose. On a PET scan you can see a shadow of the brain but tumors are big black holes.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Andrew Hunter,

            They’re definitely not stupid or lazy, that would be the wrong thing to take away. Ignorant is a better word.

            They’ve gotten to this point without having to understand the processes they study on anything more than a superficial level. They can follow a protocol in the lab and they can explain how it works. They just can’t answer why because the foundational knowledge isn’t there yet.

            Most of them will have a solid understanding of cell biology and biochemistry by the time they take their qualifying exams. It’s just frustrating that they didn’t come into the program with any of that knowledge, and I lay the blame for that on their colleges.

            I’m weird because I’ve been reading the literature since freshman year of high school and the biology curriculum always interested me so I retained more of what I was taught. I can’t turn that into an educational policy proposal but there has to be some way to encourage kids to actually learn if they’re not internally motivated.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Nabil

            That’s kind of language learning. If you make someone take Spanish then all of the potential benefits of taking that class have pretty much disappeared. I think the only way around it is some kind of hyper engagement where you make them interact with a person so they can have a fundamental understanding. Barely paying attention through class and cramming your half-assed notes doesn’t do anything for you. Even if you get an A.

            I think in school, at least before college they should better try and get kids to understand more rather than cramming more information in their head. What’s the point of taking Algebra 2 if they got a C in Algebra 1?

          • Randy M says:

            That said, if your neurons operated that way it would kill you. The brain already uses roughly a third of all the glucose in the body; Warburg effect tumors consume far far more glucose. On a PET scan you can see a shadow of the brain but tumors are big black holes.

            So you would think yourself to death? That’s kinda metal.

    • tayfie says:

      Caplan believes the knowledge he has to teach about economics is useful, and the signalling will be a factor no matter what Caplan does as long as the class is difficult enough, so Caplan should maximize learning about economics.

      I am not sure what point you are trying to make.

      • maintain says:

        >Caplan believes the knowledge he has to teach about economics is useful

        He totally does not. He just wrote an entire book explaining that he does not.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          I haven’t read his book, but I doubt this is the case. He says 80% of the value of education to students is signaling, but that doesn’t mean this is a good thing. I think I remember him opining on his blog at some point that students should actually learn some real knowledge while they’re in college, even though most of the economic benefit to them is the signaling portion. I think he recommends more difficult classes on this basis. I don’t know that I agree with him — it seems to me that one should take several classes that are as easy as possible, so you have time to do more important things, since I agree with him about the proportion of signaling. But he thinks difficult classes will benefit students.

          • maintain says:

            I will grant you that if students were to learn more useful things in school, they would benefit from that, and society would also benefit as a whole. However I was asking about the most efficient path, from a moral perspective.

            Let’s assume a student spends 150 hours studying for each class per semester. At $10/hour, that’s $1500 per student per semester. Now, supposedly for every $3000 you give to the Against Malaria Foundation, it saves a life. A college professor has the choice of whether to assign his students to learn things for the semester, or to do work for charity. If a class has 50 students, that would be 25 lives saved every semester. I find it difficult to imagine that the benefit to society from teaching the students “real knowledge” is greater than the benefit of just having the students do work, and give to charity. And the signaling value to the student is the same, as long as the work is difficult.

            So, Caplan, if you’re reading this, go enact my plan, or else you’re guilty of murder.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            🙂 At least I assume this is a joke of yours, since Bryan isn’t an effective altruist.

  19. sierraescape says:

    Hi. My motivation has dropped down to zero over the last few days. I’m taking Prednisone, which can have effects on mood, but I can’t get off of that for now. College means if this lasts another few days I’m forfeiting a good part of my career aspirations. Advice?

    • dndnrsn says:

      Get a letter from the doctor who prescribed it explaining the side effects and try to use as many of the accommodations they have for health issues as possible. Do you not have to be in school right now, or is it an “if my marks plummet I’m screwed” situation? If it’s the former, see if you can take some kind of leave until you don’t have to take the prednisone any more, if that’s feasible.

      • sierraescape says:

        The latter. A letter and taking advantage of the accomodation system sounds good, I will look into that.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Most profs, or admins if you really gotta go that route, will let you do something like not write a midterm and move the marks % onto the final. This results in a pretty hefty % of your mark riding on the final, but it’s better than bungling the midterm.

          • quaelegit says:

            This is a good point — especially because working through the school’s disability office or equivalent usually takes more than a few days (and tend to hinge on getting the right forms from the doctor — so contact your doctor with the forms and followup with them ASAP too). The sooner you can talk to your instructors the better — try both email and in person during office hours.

            Edit: Also, this really depends on your finances and school rules, but it might be worth looking into the rules to withdraw or take incomplete term/grade. My school had a medical withdrawal option that meant the term’s grades did not go on your transcript even if you withdrew fairly late in the term.

          • AKL says:

            I think this is an important point. Tons of students who are struggling for whatever reason try to gut it out rather than talking to their professors. ESPECIALLY when they feel like it’s “their fault.”

            Of course some professors won’t be helpful, but I think you’ll find that most professors really care about you, probably more than you know (even in a 300+ person lecture where they won’t even recognize you).

            Meet them, explain the situation, describe what you’re doing about it (contacting a doctor re: documentation, investigating changing your meds, etc.), and I think most will want to work with you to find ways to help.

    • Incurian says:

      Can you take other drugs to compensate?

      • sierraescape says:

        There are substitutes I could use, but the transition is really bad. I’m switching to another medication in a few days and weaning off of the prednisone, but in the meantime something needs to change to save my GPA.

    • sierraescape says:

      My motivation spontaneously returned to normal human levels last night. Starting a new medication soon, so the situation is no longer desperate. Thanks for the input everyone.

  20. DavidS says:

    For people who oppose (significantly) increased gun control in countries like the US: do you also think that more liberal gun laws and/or more people having guns would be a good thing in e.g. the UK?

    I can see the arguments for and against significant gun restrictions in the US, but a lot of this is to do with the number of guns already out there and the pre-existing culture. I get a sort of whiplash when someone I’m arguing with says ‘oh, do you think we should make it so people can easily buy guns here too’ because that sounds like unnecessarily opening a Pandora’s box and I’m basically small-c conservative….

    • a reader says:

      In my country, Romania, there was never ever a school shooting in our entire history – and that is due to the complete lack of guns – civilians can’t have guns legally here – not due to the lack of potential perpetrators. For example, some years ago, a schizophrenic man tried to detonate a handmade bomb in a university class – but fortunately the bomb didn’t work. Probably it is hard to make a bomb that works well with a mind that doesn’t work well (although the Unabomber could – but he was unusually inteligent).

      I can’t understand why Americans accept having multiple mass shootings a year – a problem that has such a simple and obvious solution. Ok, they have that 2nd Amendment – but I think it’s not necessary to forbid all guns, just the types of guns frequently used in mass shootings, semi-automatic rifles like AR-15, and the mass shootings will decrease substantially and/or will result in a lot fewer deaths.

      Now even in my country there are young men that want to change the laws and obtain the right to own guns. Among the most vocal local online advocates of guns I saw, at least one is quite disturbed (on autism spectrum, virgin, jobless, suicidal thoughts, big problems socializing even online) and I think that the fact that this guy wants guns is one of the strongest arguments against guns.

      • Aapje says:

        civilians can’t have guns legally here

        I do not believe you. Are there no hunters in Romania? Or do only the military/police hunt?

        • Thegnskald says:

          We are talking about a country that hung the Soviet-installed dictator the moment that the Soviet Union fell.

          They have no issue being violent. Peter the Brave should demonstrate that. They just prefer more hands-on methods.

          (Tongue in cheek.)

      • Incurian says:

        How many times have they been taken over by communists?

      • Randy M says:

        I can’t understand why Americans accept having multiple mass shootings a year

        There are other bad things than mass shootings, which, of course, are very bad.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Liberals will point out how few people die of terrorism and how we over react to that risk. Conservatives will foam at the mouth at hearing this.

          Switch “terrorism” with “mass shootings” and you get the exact opposite picture.

          The chance of dying in a mass shooting or of dying of terrorism isn’t zero, but it’s pretty small. When you raise questions of how you react to it, it’s very easy to end up costing yourself more than you gained.

          • Randy M says:

            True enough. I think some conservatives are rethinking the “anything to keep us safe” rationale, for example regarding an expansive (and expensive) surveillance state or interventionist wars as doing more harm on net.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think “anything to keep us safe” is quite the dynamic. When conservatives say they want to ban Muslim immigration that’s not something that they consider super painful but they are willing to do it in order to save lives. That’s considered not just cheap in terms of lost benefits, but maybe a good idea regardless. Likewise for those on the left and tightening gun laws.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, I intentionally left immigration off the list because conservatives (not to say republicans) may still find the benefits (of restrictions) out weigh the costs there, and immigration affects a lot more than just terrorism, even when (the discussion is) restricted to Muslim immigrants.

            But I think support for the TSA or military interventions has fallen off considerably. Maybe not because they think terrorism is negligible (and in fact, like school shootings it is worth addressing imo) but looking plausibly at the cost benefit analysis is an improvement and the more extreme calls for gun confiscation don’t do that–you can’t compare status quo with your ideal without considering the cost of moving there, even if you take optimistic views of crime in a recently unarmed society.

          • gbdub says:

            Substantially reducing rampage killings in the USA will require some restrictions in either the first, second, or fourth amendments (or all three). People, being people, tend to be perfectly willing to sacrifice the rights that affect them, personally, less, whenever those rights are shown to have costs they do care about.

            So one side is fine banning guns, because they don’t value guns. Conservatives are fine banning Muslim immigration, because they don’t value Muslim immigration.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub
            Your second paragraph was exactly the point I was trying to make. Sorry if it was unclear.

          • gbdub says:

            Brad, I did not expect that we were in agreement, just wanted to basically +1 and expand a bit.

            I think that’s part of what makes compromise so difficult – it’s often less a case of people valuing the same things but weighing them differently, but rather one side of the debate perfectly willing to throw out a thing completely because it has no value to them.

            In the particular case of gun control there’s a sense on the pro-gun side that “common sense” gun control, which many gun owners might be perfectly willing to support, is going to fail, and will be followed by calls for ever more restrictive laws until the 2A is effectively neutered.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub

            In the particular case of gun control there’s a sense on the pro-gun side that “common sense” gun control, which many gun owners might be perfectly willing to support, is going to fail, and will be followed by calls for ever more restrictive laws until the 2A is effectively neutered.

            Perhaps surprisingly, I agree with this too. But I have slightly different take on the implications.

            I don’t think gun control advocates are particularly secretive about the fact that they’d like a whole loaf. More importantly I don’t think they can, should, or are commit to being satisfied indefinitely with half a loaf and never seeking the whole loaf.

            On the flip side, I don’t see anything wrong with gun rights advocates looking at the law in question, looking the history of enforcement, and applying a very skeptical eye to the terms of the proposed law. For example, if someone is worried the bump stock ban language could also be used to ban collapsible stocks, that’s a fair objection to my mind.

            What I don’t think is reasonable is to oppose a law that the person himself thinks is good, or least not bad, policy because he is worried that down the road gun control advocates will want stricter rules. That’s entirely true, but it will be true regardless of whether or not the current law passes. If it’s a good law, vote for it, and if isn’t don’t for it. Let the future take of itself, because it is going to regardless of whether you let it or not.

            That’s my little-d democracy and good government argument anyway. I guess the strongest counterargument I can come up with, is that if gun rights advocates build up a norm of saying no to anything and everything than that’ll help buck up future generations. But I don’t find that especially compelling, even when flipped around and applied to Muslim immigration or something else where I am on the other side.

          • Randy M says:

            There’s also the fact that if your representative votes against the more innocuous gun control legislation, you can be sure of where they stand, but if they vote for minor restrictions, all you have it their word that it will go no further, and voters don’t trust that.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @gbdub

            There’s nothing in the Constitution against banning immigrants from certain countries from coming here. In fact, it’s been done extensively in the US for over a hundred years without any constitutional problems.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s also nothing in the constitution against restaurants having dress codes, and there’s a long and widely accepted history of that as well. But if you open a new restaurant by saying repeatedly and publicly “Black people cause too much trouble so I’m going to make sure none of them eat at my restaurant”, and then after talking to your lawyers take down the “no coloreds” signs but impose a dress code of no hoodies, no kente cloth, no Rasta wear, don’t expect to win any resulting lawsuits.

            Like it or not, the law does consider intent in determining whether an action is criminal or tortious, and allows courts to infer intent from one’s speech. The Constitution is fine with this.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Brown vs Board of Education says you can’t segregate your public areas can’t be segregated based on the 14th amendment. There has never been a single constitutional case, to my knowledge, that says we cant have limits on immigration and there’s plenty to the contrary.

            As far as intent, if Donald Trump said that he wanted higher minimum wages to kick out immigrants, is higher minimum wages now illegal?

          • Brad says:

            What difference do constitutional provisions make to the discussion at hand? The fundamental point is this:

            So one side is fine banning guns, because they don’t value guns. Conservatives are fine banning Muslim immigration, because they don’t value Muslim immigration.

            Those are true statements even if you really really think that other side ought to value guns because the founding fathers, peace be upon them, put the second amendment in the Constitution and really really think the other side ought not to value Muslim immigration because if it was so important the founding fathers, peace be upon them, surely would have put something about them in the Constitution.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Gbdub said that conservatives and liberals care only about the amendments to the extent that it affects them. Then he linked the first amendment with conservatives wanting to ban Muslim immigrants. There’s a strong case that says excessive gun control is unconstitutional. The unconstitutionality of the Muslim ban is really weak, especially with regards to the actual bill that targeted certain countries. It’s important because if it’s not unconstitutional, that gives us one fewer reason not to do it.

          • John Schilling says:

            As far as intent, if Donald Trump said that he wanted higher minimum wages to kick out immigrants, is higher minimum wages now illegal?

            “Immigrants”, are not a protected class under the law. And higher minimum wages are not a thing unique to Donald Trump. So no, for two reasons.

            If Donald Trump said that he wanted higher minimum wages to kick out e.g. Hispanic immigrants, and then tried to enact a higher minimum wage by administrative action(*), then the courts would probably deem that a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Minimum wages implemented by Congress or by the various States would almost certainly not be affected, nor any minimum wages implemented by the executive branch prior to Trump’s taking office.

            * This would have to apply only to Federal civil service jobs or maybe to Federal government contractors.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Brad

            I can’t agree with you with regards to incrementalism. When faced with someone using an incremental ratchet strategy, each and every victory they claim must be viewed as direct progress towards bringing their end-goal inside the overton window
            and making it a reality. Ratchet strategy is ALWAYS zero-sum.

            This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to always oppose every suggestion. It does mean that every platform proposal from someone pursuing a ratchet strategy you oppose must be balanced with a matching move disadvantaging them, or you absolutely guarantee their long-term success.

            EDIT: To be clear, this is not specific to gun control, immigration, or any one issue, but applies to anyone wishing to oppose anyone else adoption a long term “ratchet” strategy.

          • Brad says:

            You can’t have a one way ratchet with ordinary legislation. What even this congress or state legislature does, the next one can undo. Within my lifetime there’s been significant movement in either direction on the gun control issue. And not in the same bill like you are talking about. So I don’t see any one way effect in play.

            In a larger sense, at generational timescales even constitutions, even religious dictates supposedly handed down by god or gods, aren’t enough to ensure that the dead hand of the past will get its way. “The earth belongs in usufruct to the living” isn’t just a normative statement, though it is that, it’s also simply a fact.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Brad

            I agree that it’s true in theory that what one congress or state legislature can do, another can undo, but that rarely happens. You get “two steps forward, one step back”, sure, but the net result is still one step forward. And again, I don’t think this is something that has an ideological direction. The closest thing to a major movement I can think of is the proliferation of shall-issue CCW regimes at the state level, but even there you’ll note that it’s not a push towards unrestricted unlicensed carry. The laws are tweaked, they are not repealed wholesale.

            Mind you, I’m ok with that in that particular case because I’d be perfectly happy with a good national standard for state CCW licenses and reciprocity. But I wouldn’t say that this proves that there’s been major movement. Rather the opposite.

            I’m not sure why you’re bringing up “The dead hand of the past” here. My point is entirely about the living. When I talk about long term plans, I’m talking years or decades, not centuries. Incremental campaigns can yield results in a single lifetime, and again, this advice works both directions.

            If conservatives are undertaking incremental “common sense” regulations on Abortion, or controlled substances, or any other topic, then my advice to someone opposing them would be the same “Don’t give an inch without provisions in the same bill that hurt their long-term goals as much as the provisions that they want help them”. It’s viewpoint neutral.

          • Brad says:

            What about the AWB? It came and went. And what’s the mechanism supposed to be for the one way ratchet? If for example, North Carolina’s legislature puts in place a transvaginal ultrasound requirement before getting an abortion, over the governor’s veto–the Republicans currently have a super-majority in the legislature– wouldn’t we fully expect that to be repealed some time in the next 20-30 years if the state continues to get bluer (which it shows every indication of doing)? What is supposed to stop movement in one direction and so only allowing it in the other?

            If there’s consistent movement in one direction or another it isn’t because of a one way ratchet, it’s because the politics of the people are going further and further in that direction. If that changes, so too will the policy direction.

            Respectfully, this argument reads to me like a post hoc rationale for conflict theory-esque scorched earth tactics.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            What about the AWB? It came and went.

            Because there wasn’t sufficient political power to get it passed without a sunset clause that automatically repealed it after 10 years without a second vote to continue it. If that clause hadn’t been in place I think it would still be in place.

            The mechanism I’m proposing is a combination of status quo bias and bureaucratic (or if you prefer, legalistic) inertia. It can be overcome locally, but that generally requires large scale and intense public dissatisfaction with the status quo (civil rights movemetns in the 60s, the repeal of prohibition, etc). Democratic processes lower the threshold of discontent so that major changes or reforms don’t take a violent revolution anymore, but the threshold is still pretty damn high at the national level, so people instead take a boiling frog approach and try to make that status quo bias work for them rather than against them.

            In your NC example, my prediction would be that the law would either remain on the books and end up unenforced (as we let happen to a lot of laws as society moves on without ever actually repealing them), or that it would be amended or modified indirectly without ever actually being outright reversed. I’m not going to say that outright reversals NEVER happen, rather that they are rare and that there is a systemic bias against them that has to be overcome, and that that bias is harder to overcome at the higher levels of government. It’s one of the reasons I’m such a big proponent of devolution of power to state and local governments and even to split/shrink states: it helps to somewhat counter that bias and makes the legislative process more responsive.

            Respectfully, this argument reads to me like a post hoc rationale for conflict theory-esque scorched earth tactics.

            The closest I’ve come to a “scorched earth” tactics is suggesting that seeking compromise positions when your opponent is adopting a long-term strategy of incrementalism is a bad idea and will likely lead to you losing out to your opponent. I think this advice is ideology and viewpoint neutral.

            You initially suggested that if someone wants a whole loaf, it’s unreasonable to demand that they renounce that claim in order to offer them half. I’m saying that on the contrary, opposing political factions with divergent terminal values and/or first principles cannot begin to negotiate in good faith until both sides have renounced their maximal goals.

          • Brad says:

            I’m saying that on the contrary, opposing political factions with divergent terminal values and/or first principles cannot begin to negotiate in good faith until both sides have renounced their maximal goals.

            You are missing the other part of the point. There is not and never will be any kind of once and for all negotiation. There is no one capable of binding all gun rights or gun control advocates even at one moment in time, much less across years.

            It’s simply a mistake of over-reification to talk about sides, deals, or betrayals. Those are terms that belonging to situations involving much more concrete cohesive entities.

            What *is* possible is a deal between political coalitions as they exist in the here and now for what a particular law is going to say. That’s it. Anyone that promises any more than that is lying and anyone that insists on being promised more than that is being unreasonable.

            The closest I’ve come to a “scorched earth” tactics is suggesting that seeking compromise positions when your opponent is adopting a long-term strategy of incrementalism is a bad idea and will likely lead to you losing out to your opponent. I think this advice is ideology and viewpoint neutral.

            Conflict theory isn’t Republican or Conservative. Scott’s chief example was Marxists. It’s a way of looking at the world. In my opinion a mistaken one (but then what would you expect a mistake theorist to say.)

            What I’m saying is that the insistence on not giving an inch seems to come from issues generally as a kind of overarching conflict between mostly implacable sides rather than a search for good policy.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            There is not and never will be any kind of once and for all negotiation. There is no one capable of binding all gun rights or gun control advocates even at one moment in time, much less across years.

            Sure, there’s no once and for all negotiation. We agree there.

            What *is* possible is a deal between political coalitions as they exist in the here and now for what a particular law is going to say. That’s it.

            Which is all well and good except that what the law says now has a non-trivial effect on what the next law will say, and the one after that, and the one after that. There is absolutely such a thing as legislative momentum and long term political campaigns.

            Conflict theory isn’t Republican or Conservative. Scott’s chief example was Marxists. It’s a way of looking at the world. In my opinion a mistaken one

            It’s a model. Like any model, it has its uses. For example, when you are modelling conflict. Not every political issue is a conflict between pretty much implacable sides. Some, however, are, and in the US Gun Control is one of those issues.

            You’re talking about an issue where there is a stable political alliance and a long-term, national, and fairly monolithic strategy and has been for nearly 50 years, guided by an unwavering political vision. In other words, it’s a conflict guided by very concrete, cohesive entities to use your own words.

        • Odovacer says:

          There are other bad things than mass shootings, which, of course, are very bad.

          I wish the NRA/gun advocates would just say that and admit that widespread gun ownership in the US has costs.

          Something like, “In Omelas the US every year ~13,000 people will be sacrificed on the alter of the gun, mostly by suicide. Of the others, some will be deserving, but some will be innocents. More will be injured. We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and we will try to lessen this number. However, we believe that this sacrifice is worth it to ensure that people are able to hunt, protect themselves, their families, and livelihoods, and to have a free society. Overall, gun ownership in the US is not without sacrifice, but it’s benefits outweigh its costs. You are free to walk away if you choose so.”

          If they get heat from this, then they can just point out the automobile gods demand 40,000 deaths a year and the alcohol demons require 80,000 souls.

          • Randy M says:

            Omelas

            Most people, being not straw utilitarians, do see a difference between omission and commission, so I would indeed keep that word struck out as in apt. (Though it may apply to supporters of capital punishment, for example)

            But, yes, a society with legal guns does lead to increased gun manufacture, which almost certainly makes it easier for guns in particular to be used for violent acts. Also makes it possible for violent acts to be prevented by the otherwise weak and vulnerable.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I am really dubious of the suicide thing.

            The US is quite average in terms of suicide rate. If guns were a causal factor, we should expect the US to be higher than average.

            But I don’t know, maybe our “natural” suicide rate is one of the lowest in the world, and guns bring us up to average. I would just find that moderately surprising.

            (Thinking about the correlation between latitude and suicide, it isn’t unthinkable, however )

          • Vorkon says:

            Something like, “In Omelas the US every year ~13,000 people will be sacrificed on the alter of the gun, mostly by suicide. Of the others, some will be deserving, but some will be innocents. More will be injured. We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and we will try to lessen this number. However, we believe that this sacrifice is worth it to ensure that people are able to hunt, protect themselves, their families, and livelihoods, and to have a free society. Overall, gun ownership in the US is not without sacrifice, but it’s benefits outweigh its costs. You are free to walk away if you choose so.”

            I’m not sure who you’re talking to, but I can’t think of any prominent examples who DON’T say that, almost word for word, if you cut out the bits about Omelas.

          • rlms says:

            @Thegnskald
            The global suicide rate probably isn’t the relevant point of comparison. From Wikipedia, the US is 12.6 (although other sources suggest higher); New Zealand and France are 12.3, Ireland is 11.1, Canada and Australia are 10.4, the UK is 7.4, Germany is 9.1, Italy and Israel are 5.4. The only developed Western countries with a rate above the US are Belgium (16.1), Finland (14.2) and Sweden (12.7). From those figures, I would estimate the US has ~20% more suicides than it “should” (a figure of ~5000/year, out of the total ~20,000 total — not sure where Odovacer’s figure of ~13,000 total gun deaths came from, this says ~33,000).

          • Odovacer says:

            @Vorkon

            I admit I’m not up to date on the statements by the pro-gun side. Could you link to something that says something similar?

            Edit: This is a statement from the NRA after the Las Vegas attack. They acknowledge the benefits of gun ownership, i.e. protection, but state that horrendous acts are inevitable, whether or not guns are banned. They don’t really state the costs of guns to US society.

            Edit 2: I made a mistake, the ~13,000 does not include suicides. Including suicides gives the number that rlms states

          • Don P. says:

            @Vorkon: John Lott’s whole theory, popular with the NRA etc., is that more guns cause lower crime rates, so it’s a win-win, not a tradeoff. (And then, as a lemma: if it hasn’t worked out that way yet, it will, once even more people are armed.) Odovacer is looking for someone who explicitly allows that the tradeoff doesn’t work out that way, even if they think it’s worth it in other dimensions.

          • I don’t know what John has written recently on the subject, but the claim in the original Lott/Mustard article was that concealed carry reduced the rate of confrontational crimes, such as mugging and rape, not of crimes in general. One might expect, on the basis of the argument, that it would increase the frequency of non-confrontational crimes, such as stealing unoccupied cars, as criminals substituted away from confrontational crimes. I don’t remember if they had any data on that.

          • Shion Arita says:

            @Thegnskald

            Gun’s don’t make people more likely to attempt suicide, but attempts with guns are much more likely to succeed than other methods.

            Intentional overdose for example, is pretty ineffective actually. The human body is extremely poison-resistant.

          • John Schilling says:

            [suicide] attempts with guns are much more likely to succeed than other methods.

            I haven’t looked into this in twenty years or so, but IIRC suicide attempts with guns are much more likely to succeed than one other method, downing a handful of barbituates/sedatives. But the statistics are skewed because the vast majority of suicide attempts, in the US at least, are by the latter method. Which almost never works, whereas the others usually do.

            Also IIRC, there were clear distinctions between the attempters as a class, suggesting two disjoint populations, one of which would attempt suicide by “violent” methods (shooting, jumping, hanging, etc) and almost always succeed, the other would attempt suicide by drug overdose and almost always wind up in a hospital saying it was an accident and they don’t need a 72-hour hold.

            If the fear is that someone in the drug-overdose group will see a gun and say “hey, I should just shoot myself instead!”, or that if you take the guns away from the violent-suicide group they won’t notice how easy it is to e.g. drive into a bridge abutment at 90 mph, I am skeptical that either of those will materialize very often.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Odovacer

            The moment that the NRA makes that argument is the moment they lose. If everyone thought that was the trade-off then gun control would massively increase.

          • Vorkon says:

            @Odovancer

            Oh, sorry, I guess I never noticed that you replied to me, here!

            I’m at work right now, unfortunately, so I can’t really go digging through YouTube videos and gun blog articles, but the pertinent passages from your original post that I see all the time are: “More will be injured. We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and we will try to lessen this number” and “Overall, gun ownership in the US is not without sacrifice, but it’s benefits outweigh its costs.”

            Nobody serious disputes that guns are a more effective means of committing suicide, for example, they just object to a) having those numbers surreptitiously mixed in with homicides as if the two problems are even remotely similar and can be addressed the same way, and b) the idea that, if you eliminate guns, then all, or even most of the suicides by gun will go away as well. Sure, you’ll stop a few, and you’ll save even more who attempt suicide and fail because they chose a less effective method, but the vast majority will still make the attempt.

            Similarly, an argument I see often goes something along the lines of, “Of COURSE a home with a gun in it is more likely to have an accident involving a gun, just like a home with a pool is more likely to have a drowning, and a home in Alaska is more likely to see someone die of frostbite than a home in Arizona.” There’s no one disputing that the risk exists, and would not exist if the gun were not present, they’re arguing that the risk is small, and just like you said in your original post, the benefits outweigh the cost.

            “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and we will try to lessen this number,” I shouldn’t even need to link to. Gun rights advocates say more or less the exact same thing in almost every speech. I know Dana Loesch and Marco Rubio expressed the same sentiment multiple times, each, in that CNN town hall.

            If you’re looking for someone to say, “more people will die than will be saved by guns,” you won’t get it, because they don’t believe that to be true. But to miss them saying, “some people will die, and it will be tragic, but the benefits will outweigh the costs,” it seems to me that you’d need to be going out of your way to ignore it.

            I can try to find more specific links later, if you like!

      • a reader says:

        @Aapje: Sorry, my bad, you are right, hunters can have hunting guns (they need a hunting licence).

        @Incurian: Yes, before communism, people could have guns and the communists forbade them. So, when the communists came to power in late 40’s, some men took their guns and went to the mountains and became partisans. They were sure that the Americans will come one day and free the country from comunism, as they freed France from the Nazis. Of course, the Americans didn’t came and those partisans couldn’t do big deal against the communist government on their own – they resisted hidden in the mountains, some of them more than a decade, but were finally eliminated by the security troops.

      • lvlln says:

        I can’t understand why Americans accept having multiple mass shootings a year – a problem that has such a simple and obvious solution. Ok, they have that 2nd Amendment – but I think it’s not necessary to forbid all guns, just the types of guns frequently used in mass shootings, semi-automatic rifles like AR-15, and the mass shootings will decrease substantially and/or will result in a lot fewer deaths.

        One of the major problems is that there are already so many guns out there, that even if we were to ban all semi-automatic rifles tomorrow, it’s questionable if it will have any significant effect. We would have to actively confiscate currently privately owned guns, and that’d be a logistical nightmare, not least because it would be violently resisted by current gun owners.

        That said, I do think there’s a good case for the idea that at least banning sales will, on the margins, make it harder for people to carry out these massacres and also make the massacres less deadly when they do. Unfortunately, as you write, the 2nd amendment gets in the way. We do ban the sales of automatic weapons today, but I’m not sure whatever rationale we used for that can extend to semi-automatic weapons. The gap between an automatic weapon to a semi-automatic weapon seems a lot larger than from a semi-automatic weapon to a revolver.

        • Urstoff says:

          You can legally acquire automatic weapons; it just takes a ton of time, paperwork, and license fees. Reclassifying semi-automatic rifles to require similar licensing to automatic weapons would probably reduce the prevalence of semi-automatic rifles in the long run.

          Of course, the vast majority of gun violence is done with pistols, but rampage killers seem to prefer rifles, so I can see the rationale behind restricting them, even if it is just a drop in the bucket of gun violence.

        • Iain says:

          DC v. Heller is the Supreme Court decision that struck down Washington’s handgun ban and established an individual right to bear arms. The fact that handguns are a ubiquitous tool of self-defense was central to Heller’s argument:

          It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.

          From that decision:

          We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.

          There is no clear legal impediment to restricting the sale of semi-automatic weapons, although there are plenty of practical issues. (As an example of both, see California’s gun laws.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t see how “There is no clear legal impediment to restricting the sale of semi-automatic weapons” follows from “that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition…”

            Semi-auto handguns and rifles are in common use today, and are almost all of the types of handguns and rifles used by police and the military.

          • Iain says:

            The entire decision in Heller is about scraping together an argument that the Second Amendment was understood at the time to be about individual self-defense, and then arguing that handguns are particularly well-suited to self-defense, so a handgun ban is unjustifiable. The decision relies on the claim that long guns are insufficient for self-defense, and only handguns will do. That was my first quote above: see page 57. The same self-defense arguments do not realistically apply to an AR-15.

            In my second quote, Scalia goes out of his way to clarify that Heller should not be taken to invalidate all gun bans: “dangerous and unusual” weapons are fair game for banning. In a similar vein, see page 54:

            Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. […] Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

            To be clear: by “restricting the sale of semi-automatic weapons”, I’m not defending a blanket ban on all semi-automatics. I’m saying that bans on specific subsets of semi-automatic weapons are almost certainly constitutional. If the legislative branch finds a reasonable way to codify “guns that are unusually good at killing lots of people quickly” — which I think is what lvlln is going for — the judicial branch is unlikely to object.

          • John Schilling says:

            The same self-defense arguments do not realistically apply to an AR-15.

            They do if one can credibly argue – and we can – that effective self-defense requires both AR-15s and
            handguns.

            But you weren’t talking about banning AR-15s, you were talking about banning “semi-automatic weapons”. Which includes the vast majority of handguns. And I am quite confident that, whatever you really meant, when the time comes to translate your vague support into specific legislation, the people on team “ban semi-automatic weapons” who actually bother with the detail work will be trying very hard to ban as many handguns as possible.

          • Iain says:

            If you finish reading my post, John, you will see that I already explicitly rejected the claim you’re ascribing to me.

        • toastengineer says:

          This is all predicated on the assumption that a gun ban will stop anyone who wants a firearm to commit crimes with, which I’m pretty convinced it won’t.

          I remember seeing an article a ways back – can’t find it now – about how a British journalist tried to buy a pistol and it basically came down to “ask some local kids where to get marijuana, ask the marijuana guy where to get pills, ask the pills guy where to get guns, buy gun from gun guy” over the course of two days.

          And they’re an island with CCTV cameras all over it! The U.S. has people digging tunnels under the border with Mexico shipping tons upon tons of whatever they want in!

          It’s also extremely easy to make a lethal firearm, see this and this that I found while looking for that article. Not to mention the whole 3D printed guns thing.

          • Iain says:

            In a world where the right to own a gun was a little less absolute, it seems pretty likely that somebody would have taken away Nikolas Cruz’s AR-15.

            It’s not like there were no warning signs here. He’d been suspended, expelled, and banned from entering school property with a backpack because of threats to students.

            Could he have acquired a gun anyway? Maybe! But taking away his gun certainly wouldn’t have made him more likely to kill 17 people.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The background checks do seem to be working. The spree shootings that the public cares about are done by people who passed them, instead of by people who bypassed them.

            There must be a class of wanna-be spree-shooters who can’t pass the background check, but we don’t see them.

          • lvlln says:

            This is all predicated on the assumption that a gun ban will stop anyone who wants a firearm to commit crimes with, which I’m pretty convinced it won’t.

            I don’t think that’s the assumption at all. Rather, it’s that a gun ban will add an extra hurdle for someone who wants a firearm to acquire one, and thus, on the margins, it will lead some people who want to commit massacres to do so with less powerful weapons, or to just not bother in the first place.

            Sure, if someone were truly 100% committed to getting a gun, there’s probably nothing that will stop them, short of 1984-level surveillance. But, like with anything, there’s going to be a spectrum of desires in wanting to commit a massacre. The most extreme ones will turn their lives upside down and throw all their resources into making it happen in the most deadly way possible. But at the other end of the spectrum will be people who want to do it but will find the extra hurdle enough of an inconvenience that they’ll either find less deadly weapons or they’ll choose not to do it. (There’s also the counterargument that it might lead people to seek more deadly tools, such as bombs, though if someone is inconvenienced enough by a gun ban not to get a gun, they’re likely to be inconvenienced enough by the difficulty of acquiring/building bombs that they wouldn’t move onto that).

            The idea isn’t to prevent all such massacres, it’s to create fewer of them and make them less deadly.

            Now, there’s a strong case to be made that there are already so many guns out there that even a gun ban wouldn’t add enough inconvenience to cause a significant shift in the count or deadliness of such massacres. Furthermore, given the rarity of these events, it’s really hard to determine the effect of a gun ban – if a gun ban passes, and another massacre occurs in the next year that kills, say, 10 kids, who’s to say that if the gun ban hadn’t occurred, 2 massacres would’ve happened in that year, or the massacre would’ve killed 11 kids? Given that, it’s a legit worry for gun culture people that even if a gun ban were to pass, any next massacre will be used as an excuse to keep tightening gun laws, with nothing ever being good enough.

            This is why I think anyone who believes we can make this never happen again just by passing a few laws (and enforcing them) is being foolish or dishonest. Yes, in countries other than the US, this sort of thing happens in much lower rates, but the US is the US with its own unique history and culture and sea of guns already in the hands of private citizens. We can perhaps incrementally take some steps towards becoming more like those other countries, but we can’t just jump directly from where we are now to where they are now. Many many things have to change.

            Personally, I think a serious movement to repeal the 2nd Amendment would be a good start. Realistically, even under the best case scenarios, I imagine such a movement wouldn’t succeed until decades after I’m dead, and it’ll take even longer than that for it to lead to enough difficulty in acquiring guns such that most people who want to commit massacres can’t get guns easily, but it seems to me that’s just about the best we can do.

          • Iain says:

            The background checks do seem to be working. The spree shootings that the public cares about are done by people who passed them, instead of by people who bypassed them.

            The shooter in Sutherland Springs passed his background check and was allowed to buy guns because the Air Force did not properly file their paperwork when they kicked him out for domestic abuse.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s not just warning signs, Iain. School officials and police deliberately ignored specific, direct warnings about Cruz.

            In November, a tipster called BSO to say Cruz “could be a school shooter in the making,” but deputies did not write up a report on that warning. It came just weeks after a relative called urging BSO to seize his weapons. Two years ago, according to a newly released timeline of interactions with Cruz’s family, a deputy investigated a report that Cruz “planned to shoot up the school” — intelligence that was forwarded to the school’s resource officer, with no apparent result.

            And these are not “mistakes” or “oversights.” It is deliberate action by the Broward County School District to improve their student criminality statistics by not reporting or arresting criminal students. The whole “we need background checks for gun buyers to make sure they’re not criminals!” thing doesn’t work very well when the authorities intentionally ignore criminality in order to make themselves look better.

            And then you’ve got the armed school guard who stayed outside and didn’t confront him…man, from the school administrators to the school district policies to the local police to the ignored tips to the FBI, it took failures at pretty much every level of government responsibility to let this one happen.

            I am unconvinced that more government authority is the solution to this problem.

          • Iain says:

            The Broward County program you highlighted is for non-violent misdemeanours. It is completely unconnected to this case.

            The school guard who didn’t go in looks bad, sure. But it’s not like we didn’t already know that people freeze up in moments of crisis without — and, often, despite — serious training. That’s why giving guns to teachers is such an asinine solution.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And yet they applied that same standard to Cruz’s violent assaults. Perhaps officially they’re only ignoring non-violent misdemeanors, but unofficially they’re ignoring whatever they can get away with.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The shooter in Sutherland Springs passed his background check and was allowed to buy guns because the Air Force did not properly file their paperwork when they kicked him out for domestic abuse.

            Good point. Let me try again.

            The background check system is effective at routing spree purchasers through its gauntlet. We have had specific failures, which are recognizable and fixable. Improving the ability of the system to find the people with serious mental disorders is a good route forward.

            Separately, what are the current due process steps if the cops suspect you are a danger, can’t prove it, and just want to take your guns temporarily (while some other due process system evaluates this)?

          • But it’s not like we didn’t already know that people freeze up in moments of crisis without — and, often, despite — serious training. That’s why giving guns to teachers is such an asinine solution.

            People sometimes freeze up. Hence the fact that there is an armed teacher does not guarantee that an attack will be prevented. Are you claiming that people always freeze up in an emergency?

            You argued for a rule against selling semi-automatic rifles despite conceding that it would have only a small effect, since there are lots already out there (also almost all homicides and a majority of mass shootings are done with handguns).

            So you think it is worth making a law in response to school shootings even if it has only a small effect. Yet it is “asinine” to propose arming teachers because some of them will freeze up and fail to use their weapons when needed. A solution you like is desirable even thought it only has a small effect. A solution you don’t like is worthless unless it has a large effect.

      • Sfoil says:

        Your country was also invaded by a foreign power, which then held a farcical “election” to install a puppet regime that ruled you for over 40 years in the name of one of the most destructive ideologies in history. I don’t know too much else about Romania, but what these guys describe sounds a lot worse than some nutjob killing a few people every couple of years.

        some men took their guns and went to the mountains and became partisans.

        Do you think these guys had the right idea, or do you think it was/is more morally correct to just let the Soviets do whatever they wanted with your country and its people? Because it sounds like your country’s gun laws were mostly written to favor the latter course at the expense of the former.

        • rlms says:

          Do you think these guys had the right idea, or do you think it was/is more morally correct to just let the Soviets do whatever they wanted with your country and its people?

          Given what happened in countries that chose the other option (Afghanistan for instance), cravenly rolling over gets my vote.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Eh? Afghan rebels defeated one superpower and are pretty much defeating another.

          • rlms says:

            Yes (I picked Afghanistan specifically because they won), but would you want to live there?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I would rather live in Afghanistan fighting Soviets than Romania under Soviets.

          • Iain says:

            You have kids, right? Would you honestly prefer to raise your kids in an active war zone?

            The Soviet-Afghan war was miserable.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Eh, Afghan Rebel Conrad and Romanian Peasant Conrad are 20 years old and don’t have kids yet.

          • Iain says:

            Good thing that the war in Afghanistan ended so quickly, then.

            (Completely coincidentally, here’s an analysis I was just reading about the prospects for long-term peace in Afghanistan, which can roughly be summarized as “yeah, they’re pretty screwed”.)

          • quanta413 says:

            Maybe it’s just me, but somehow I doubt that success or the lack thereof in fighting Soviets is what changed the outcomes of all those other things in these two countries.

            The problem with rolling over isn’t necessarily that it would have worse outcomes for those who rollover in any given case. But if everyone had rolled over to communism, I think the world would be much worse.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        but I think it’s not necessary to forbid all guns, just the types of guns frequently used in mass shootings, semi-automatic rifles like AR-15, and the mass shootings will decrease substantially and/or will result in a lot fewer deaths.

        This is an error of fact. The “type of gun frequently used in a mass shooting” is not the AR-15, or a rifle at all. It’s handguns. Yes, the most recent school shooting and other mass shooting (Vegas) used rifles, but the vast majority of mass shootings use handguns. Here’s a list I just found with a quick google search of weapons used in mass shootings between 1999 and 2013. Scroll through and you’ll notice it’s almost all handguns.

        And that’s only the kind of “mass shootings” the media cares about (i.e., those that effect white people). There’s a “mass shooting” (4+ deaths) every week in Detroit. The death toll from the Vegas shooting happens every single month in Chicago. Someone is shot in Chicago every 2 hours, and someone dies every 12 hours. This is all handguns. Not rifles.

        But let’s stick to the original premise, “ban guns like the AR-15.” If you want to write a law, you need to specify the things that make an AR-15 like an AR-15, so you can’t just change the name and call it a day. Banning full-auto weapons was easy, because the description is easy: a mechanism whereby one pull of the trigger fires more than one bullet.

        You can’t say “high-powered” because the AR-15 isn’t really all that high-powered. It’s just a 5.56 round. Your typical .30-06 deer rifle packs a way bigger punch.

        You can’t say “high-capacity” because that’s a feature of the magazine size, not the rifle. Stick a 10 round mag in an AR-15 and it’s still an AR-15. You could pass a law limiting magazine sizes, but so what? Mag swaps are quick. It didn’t matter for all those handgun mass shootings. The VA Tech shooter killed almost twice as many people as the Parkland shooter with regular-capacity handguns.

        “Rate of fire” just means semi-auto. The AR-15 doesn’t fire any faster than any other semi-auto handgun, rifle, or shotgun. How many guns is that? “What percentage of rifles/long guns/handguns are semi-auto” isn’t really a meaningful question because it depends on whether you’re talking “ever manufactured” or “currently owned” or “selling today” and we don’t have good statistics, but the answer is “a lot.”

        I googled around and couldn’t get a good answer, but I found other guesses that matched my own intuition, which was “somewhere around half of rifles and ~90% of handguns.” Lots of people hunt with semi-auto rifles, especially if you’re shooting small game. You’re not going to use a bolt-action .22 for gophers and rabbits and such. Semi-auto shotguns are ideal for game birds. My nephews clear wild hogs (that breed like vermin) off their neighbor’s farm with an AR-15. So if you’re banning semi-auto long guns then you’re banning half the guns people use for hunting. That’s not a small thing. And semi-auto handguns are…almost all handguns used today for self-defense.

        Since it’s the not the capabilities of the weapon that differentiate an “assault rifle” from other typical rifles, then what is it? Is it just the way it looks? Black, with a pistol grip and a barrel shroud? Are rifles any less deadly without those features?

        Lost in all this talk of hunting is that the 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting, it’s about preservation of liberty. As others have pointed out, your country’s been taken over by commies. Ours has not. So specifically what we need in the hands of citizens are rifles similar to those of what police and soldiers of the day use, an that’s almost entirely semi-auto handguns and rifles.

        tl;dr the only way you can ban “the type of guns used in mass shootings” is to ban almost all guns, so you might as well formulate arguments for that.

        • Protagoras says:

          Since it’s the not the capabilities of the weapon that differentiate an “assault rifle” from other typical rifles, then what is it? Is it just the way it looks? Black, with a pistol grip and a barrel shroud? Are rifles any less deadly without those features?

          For the mass shooters, disturbed as they are, imagining themselves looking like Rambo while taking out their targets may be part of the appeal; they may be marginally less likely to act out their fantasy if they have to use what looks like a boring hunting rifle.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you think the problem is the media glorifying violence then? The weapons aren’t innately fantastic. The fantasy is created by the presentation, which doesn’t come from the gun.

            ETA: A 9mm hollow point leaves a bigger hole in somebody than a 5.56 AR-15 round. Given the tight quarters involved in school shootings, accuracy over distance isn’t a big deal. If AR-15s were banned and school shooters switched exclusively to handguns, would we see an increase in the deadliness of school shootings?

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe, but there’s plenty of cultural cache of the gansta cappin’ people with a handgun, or spraying about with two handguns Matrix style.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Encouraging shooters to do what’s flashy over what is effective?

          • Randy M says:

            Is anything ineffective when your targets are unarmed crowds?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Maybe. There are a wide variety of guns with a wide variety of trade-offs, and I don’t know them very well. Nor do legislators, unfortunately, who sometimes end up banning the scary-looking gun which was also more prone to failure under sustained use.

            It’s possible to make the situation worse, especially if we don’t know what we’re doing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Is anything ineffective when your targets are unarmed crowds?

            Some things are more effective than others. Hitting vital organs with guns is harder than people think. If, say, the Pulse Nightclub shooter had used a full auto weapon instead of a semi-auto rifle it’s likely fewer people would have died because he would have wasted an awful lot of ammo on wild shots.

            NATO uses 5.56 cartridges because they’re cheaper and lighter than something more effective like the a 7.62. I don’t have a source handy, but analyses have shown that in recent conflicts something like 20,000 rounds are expended for each enemy kill. Soldiers are mainly firing at the enemy to contain them until air support / artillery can take them out.

            A 5.56 is just a .22 with some extra uumph. Would you rather get shot with a .22 or a 9mm? If crazies want to think a .22 is going to kill more people than a 9mm I’m not sure if I want to educate them..?

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Merely judging cartridges/bullets by their caliber is wrong. Bullet velocity makes an enormous difference and the higher velocity of rifles (due to the longer barrel allowing the gases to transfer more energy to the bullet) are why they have far greater penetrative power and usability over long range, compared to handguns.

            5.56 NATO has a higher velocity than 7.62 NATO, which means that it has a flatter bullet trajectory, making it easier to use at typical combat ranges. Low recoil makes it easier to get multiple shots on target, especially useful when fighting at close ranges, where a soldier actually has a decent chance to hit or to get hit.

            The current 5.56 munition is also quite well-designed and will rapidly tumble when it hits someone, causing quite a bit of damage. A smaller caliber bullet that tumbles creates a wider wound track than a larger caliber bullet that goes straight.

            So it’s hardly clear that a larger caliber is always better.

          • Vorkon says:

            5.56 is definitely capable of causing greater trauma than any 9mm round, yeah. A pistol firing .45ACP or .357 magnum would probably be just as, if not more deadly, round for round, than a rifle firing 5.56, though.

            That said, one way that a mass shooting with 9mm might be more dangerous than one with 5.56 is overpenetration. It’s certainly true that you can GET 5.56 loads that penetrate barriers better than most pistol rounds, but for average civilian loads 5.56 and .223 overpenetrate less than just about anything worth using, despite their higher velocity. They’re better for penetrating thin armor (again, because of that higher velocity) than most pistol rounds, but the tiny projectile breaks up much more quickly in thicker barriers, like walls, or the human body.

            Shifting gears a little bit, just because I wanted an excuse to beat this particular hobby horse, this is why I scoff at people who try to claim that there is no valid self-defense use for an AR-15. A .223 round in either hollow point or soft point will overpenetrate less than any common pistol round short of a .22, yet they’ll also retain more stopping power than anything short of a .45. They’ll even overpenetrate less than the oh-so vaunted shotgun loaded with anything other than bird shot. And you do NOT want to rely on bird shot to stop a determined attacker. You’d be better off using a taser or pepper spray, at that point.

            Caliber wars are always a highly subjective minefield, but IMHO the .223 is the premier self-defense round on the planet, bar none, at least against an unarmored attacker. And if the attacker DOES have body armor, then just grab your spare mag loaded with a heftier 5.56 load! It’s the best of both worlds! And best of all, you can practically guarantee that you’ll actually hit your target, which is the best way to prevent stray shots of all. (You still want a handgun to ensure you can get to your rifle in the first place, though, of course.)

          • Aapje says:

            Supposedly, better optics have now allowed soldiers to engage effectively at greater distances than in the past, which might make a heavier round better. So it’s possible that the next round will be bigger again, perhaps 6.5mm.

            Of course, there is great cost in switching, so they might also just stick with 5.56.

            Also, that is not very relevant to mass shooters, who typically attack at fairly short distance.

          • Lillian says:

            Maybe, but there’s plenty of cultural cache of the gansta cappin’ people with a handgun, or spraying about with two handguns Matrix style.

            The Virginia Tech shooter went in guns akimbo with a Glock 17 and a Walter P22 and he still killed 32 people. In fact i believe it remains the deadliest school shooting in US history, and there weren’t even any rifles involved. His effectiveness is due to his thoroughness, all of the victims were shot at least three times each, and nearly all of them suffered gunshot wounds to the head. He also sweept back into rooms he’d already shot-up to finish off survivors.

            NATO uses 5.56 cartridges because they’re cheaper and lighter than something more effective like the a 7.62.

            Apje covered this pretty well, but the Soviets also switched over from 7.62 to 5.45 about a decade after the US did, so both of the Cold War superpowers decided that smaller bullets were better. Aside from high velocity and low recoil allowing greater accuracy, these bullets also have better penetration against body armour, which was a major concern in NATO v WarPac scenarios. On top of that, smaller lighter bullets allow each infantryman to carry more ammunition. Finally as Apje said these small high speed bullets have a tendency to tumble and fragment inside the target, making them pretty lethal anyway. The cost of the ammunition was never really much of a consideration.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t disagree with y’all about the effectiveness of the 5.56 round. It absolutely kills people. But you keep talking about range and armor piercing and those aren’t important considerations for school shootings. I’m just saying for the purposes a school shooter has in mind, a 9mm with hollowpoint rounds is probably more effective.

            Assuming equivalent skill, do you think Cruz would have had a higher, lower, or equal body count had he used handguns instead of an AR-15?

          • Vorkon says:

            I thought I, at least, addressed that part. (In fact, I specifically ignored all the 5.56 vs. 7.62 talk, in favor of comparing it to pistol calibers.)

            A pistol loaded with 9mm, even in hollow point, would definitely not have been MORE deadly than a rifle loaded with 5.56. It probably wouldn’t have been all THAT much less deadly, though. At best, one or two more people might have survived with wounds rather than dying, if they were lucky. The only wild card is that 9mm would overpenetrate more, so it’s possible that more people in other rooms might be hit by stray rounds.

            That’s only because the 9mm isn’t a particularly powerful round compared to a 5.56, though, not because of any inherent advantages of the platform in a school shooting style engagement. A pistol loaded with something like .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, or anything more powerful would almost definitely have been more deadly than a rifle loaded with 5.56, at the ranges we’re talking about here.

            (As a side note, I haven’t studied 5.56 vs. 7.62 as carefully as I have self-defense calibers, but I have a feeling people are overestimating the 5.56’s ability to tumble, which it wasn’t actually designed to do, and is mostly just a happy accident, and underestimating the 7.62 at close range. Anecdotally, I’ve always heard that the 7.62 is brutal at closer range, but that the 5.56 retains its lethality farther out, in addition to just having a longer range in total.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Against unarmed, targets in enclosed spaces, there is probably not that much difference between a rifle and pistols, in kills per time unit. Ability of the shooter and circumstances are surely far more relevant for the total number of victims.

            @Vorkon

            It’s not just about damage, but also about being able to keep shooting.

          • Vorkon says:

            It’s not just about damage, but also about being able to keep shooting.

            That would have been an issue in a shooting like the Pulse; a large, mostly open area, with a ton of people all around, with bad lighting, and numerous avenues from which to flank or escape from the attacker. I’ll concede that’s one shooting where the choice of weapon made a difference. In the stereotypical school shooting, however, the attacker is going from class to class, with a limited number of students in each class. Even if he has to swap a magazine once or twice per class, that’s not a difficult prospect. It’s possible this one might have been somewhat different, because he pulled the alarm and shot people in the halls as they were leaving, but that’s still a much tighter and more controlled space, people are still coming out of the classrooms in waves, and I know that at least some of the shooting was done before the fire alarm was pulled, just not how much.

            In general, the problem of needing to swap magazines is seriously overblown. It really doesn’t take very long to swap one out with even a modicum of practice, and in order to take advantage of that small window of time, you need to be prepared to attack as soon as it happens, and if you’re out of cover and watching the attacker that closely, you’re probably already dead. I can think of exactly ONE mass shooting that was stopped by tackling the assailant while he was swapping magazines, the Gabby Giffords shooting, and not only was he a complete idiot, opening fire from the middle of a crowd and giving up one of the biggest advantages an attacker has, the ability to choose an advantageous location for the attack, but more importantly, they were only able to do it because he fumbled the magazine, dropped it on the ground, and was bending over to pick it back up. It’s far easier to take advantage of a pause to shoot back than it is to tackle a guy.

            People often accuse concealed carry advocates of having a “Rambo fantasy,” despite the fact that we mostly know that our primary job is to be a speed bump, and our chances of actually stopping the shooter are low. But even if that were true, a Rambo fantasy is a significantly more realistic one than the Batman fantasy of people who think they’ll be able to stop an attacker while he’s swapping magazines. I’m not saying it’s impossible, and you should certainly try if you can, but your chances are much better if you’re armed.

            That’s kind of me going off on a tangent and beating my own hobby horse, though. The main point I want to make is that there are plenty of situations where a rifle is more effective than a pistol, but I don’t think the stereotypical school shooting is one of them.

        • Brad says:

          Lost in all this talk of hunting is that the 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting, it’s about preservation of liberty. As others have pointed out, your country’s been taken over by commies. Ours has not. So specifically what we need in the hands of citizens are rifles similar to those of what soldiers of the day use, an that’s things like the AR-15.

          Heller says it is about individual self defense, which is quite different from collective preservation of liberty.

          As I understand it handguns are quite peripheral in terms of military usefulness. Were what you suggest the dominant understanding of the amendment, the select fire rifle would be the central example of a protected weapon, not handguns.

          But Scalia was more a small-C conservative than he liked to admit.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Heller says it is about individual self defense, which is quite different from collective preservation of liberty.

            That’s not my understanding of Heller. It wasn’t individual self-defense instead of collective preservation of liberty. Collective preservation of liberty wasn’t up for debate.

            As far as semi-auto rifles for self-defense go, as long as there are riots in the US, semi-auto rifles are a reasonable self-defense tool.

            As I understand it handguns are quite peripheral in terms of military usefulness. Were what you suggest the dominant understanding of the amendment, the select fire rifle would be the central example of a protected weapon, not handguns.

            Of course, but police use semi-auto handguns (and semi-auto rifles for SWAT). If the citizens are to have the same weapons as the typical state enforcer, then they need semi-auto handguns and rifles.

            ETA: Brad, in previous discussions you’ve expressed your distrust for police and support for the ideas behind BLM. There are those (although I don’t think you’re among them) who want to ban all guns. Wouldn’t that just leave everyone at the mercy of the police?

          • baconbits9 says:

            As I understand it handguns are quite peripheral in terms of military usefulness

            This is misleading. Handguns are pretty useless in combat but they serve a large role in preventing occupations. A populace heavily armed with hand guns makes occupation extremely expensive and overt. Against an unarmed populace you basically can send 2 guys with truncheons to arrest one suspect, if that suspect might be armed with just a knife then you have to up the amount of force. Give him a handgun and you functionally need a well armed team to get to him without significant risk. Higher cost means only specific areas get patrolled (see dangerous urban environments) regularly and the rest of the area has ample opportunity to violate ordinances that wouldn’t happen for an unarmed populace.

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            That’s not my understanding of Heller. It wasn’t individual self-defense instead of collective preservation of liberty. Collective preservation of liberty wasn’t up for debate.

            Except that the majority opinion was pretty clearly drafted to uphold GCA68 and the extreme limitations on civilian ownership of select fire rifles. If collective preservation of liberty was beyond debate and individual self defense was an adjunct to that, then how do laws that forbid the quintessential infantry weapon of the day even begin to pass muster?

            Of course, but police use semi-auto handguns (and semi-auto rifles for SWAT). If the citizens are to have the same weapons as the typical state enforcer, then they need semi-auto handguns and rifles.

            I don’t what “the typical state enforcer” has to do with anything. You can’t wage a war against cops, they are backstopped by the actual military. If you shoot a cop and keep shooting cops eventually the national guard is going to be called out.

            Inasmuch as the second amendment at its core is supposed to be the final bulwark against tyranny it has to be because they are useful in some way against the military. And that means weapons of war, not weapons of law enforcement.

            Inasmuch as the second amendment at its core is supposed to be about self defense against criminals, then it makes sense for handguns rather than select fire rifles to be at the core of the right.

            Finally, in terms of BLM there’s no mileage in shooting cops. Even where it is totally, 100% legally justified juries somehow manage to find otherwise. If the self defender even makes it to trial in the first place. And it doesn’t deter cops either, just makes them more bloodthirsty. As I mentioned above if you want to go to war against the system you have to go to war against the system. Violent half-measures are extremely counterproductive. So I don’t really see what legal guns are going to do for BLM.

            @baconbits9
            Are you saying that a handgun in every house is more of a deterrent than an AK-47 (which I believe is more traditional when it comes to deterring occupations)?

          • Garrett says:

            The funny part of the Heller decision and associated commentary is that it fails to reflect the other major case law on point: US v. Miller, a piece of “justice” with procedure so bad as to rival the Dread Scott case, concluded that the 2nd Amendment protected the “ownership of military-type weapons appropriate for use in an organized militia”.

          • Vorkon says:

            Except that the majority opinion was pretty clearly drafted to uphold GCA68 and the extreme limitations on civilian ownership of select fire rifles. If collective preservation of liberty was beyond debate and individual self defense was an adjunct to that, then how do laws that forbid the quintessential infantry weapon of the day even begin to pass muster?

            Current US military doctrine is to basically never place your rifle on burst, ever. Theoretically you might want to do so if you needed to lay down suppressive fire but didn’t have a SAW gunner in your squad, but considering how well equipped and organized the US military is, that pretty much never happens. The mantra, “one shot, one kill” may not be official policy, but it’s repeated so often that it might as well be.

            You could replace every select fire M16/M4 with a civilian equivalent, and cause basically no change in the day to day operations of the average rifleman, even in a combat zone. As such, I’d say that civilian ARs very much meet the “in common use at the time” standard set by Miller. The standard doesn’t refer to specific firearms, but rather general types and uses of firearms.

            I’m with Conrad Honcho on this one; Heller did not, in any way, overturn anything that was set forth in Miller, and in fact specifically affirmed most of it. It simply clarified other aspects of the second amendment, which the Miller decision never needed to address in the first place, because they had no bearing on the case. Miller addresses what types of firearms are covered by the second amendment, not what those firearms can be used for.

            Are you saying that a handgun in every house is more of a deterrent than an AK-47 (which I believe is more traditional when it comes to deterring occupations)?

            I don’t know what Baconbits was saying, specifically, but in a way this is true, yes. An AK-47’s main role in resisting an occupation is in allowing the people resisting to form an effective guerilla unit. A handgun is, in general, more useful in resisting an unexpected raid on your house or other facility, simply because you can always have it on you, and the attacker won’t know ahead of time that you have it. Admittedly, if you can do so, you should probably use that handgun to get to your rifle, but handguns do have a specific defensive use that no other form factor can match.

            All the stuff about BLM

            I actually have no comment on any of this, but I just wanted to point out that I haaaaaaate when people use the acronym “BLM” in the context of the 2nd Amendment’s use in resisting tyranny, because I can never tell if they’re talking about Black Lives Matter or the Bureau of Land Management. >.<

          • Brad says:

            @Vorkon

            As such, I’d say that civilian ARs very much meet the “in common use at the time” standard set by Miller. The standard doesn’t refer to specific firearms, but rather general types and uses of firearms.

            That’s interesting and new information for me, but I don’t think it changes my analysis of Heller. Because I don’t think Scalia or anyone else on the Court knew it any more than I did. He certainly didn’t use it as part of his reasoning.

            Here’s the language I was thinking of:

            It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

            Although it is dicta and doesn’t hold explicitly that the M16 ban is constitutional, it certainly strongly suggestive.

            This looks to me like conceding the point that collective defense against tyranny is at least no longer the core point of the amendment and the Court isn’t going to interpret it with that goal in mind.

            While Scalia has moved on to that great bench in the sky, note that there was no concurrences, all five justices in the majority signed the opinion in full.

          • Randy M says:

            For clarity’s sake, when you say “no concurrences” you mean no other written opinion agreeing with the conclusion but offering different rationale, right?

          • Brad says:

            Yep. In general a Supreme Court set of opinions will be:

            Majority Opinion (“Opinion of the Court”)
            Concurrances (justices that agree with the outcome but not with the reasoning)
            Dissents (justices that disagree with the outcome)

            It can get complicated–Justices can sign on to part of an opinion. Occasionally there is no majority opinion and then it is a real mess.

            Just because I have it open for another comment, here’s the summary of positions for the Obamacare case:

            Roberts, C. J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III–C, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined; an opinion with respect to Part IV, in which Breyer and Kagan, JJ., joined; and an opinion with respect to Parts III–A, III–B, and III–D. Ginsburg, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part, and dissenting in part, in which Sotomayor, J., joined, and in which Breyer and Kagan, JJ., joined as to Parts I, II, III, and IV. Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., filed a dissenting opinion. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

            That’s a complicated one.

            But here’s Heller:

            SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. BREYER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined.

            quite straightforward.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Conrad Honcho

          As far as I can tell, mass shootings using the definition the Washington Post uses (4 or more killed, 1 or 2 shooters, excluding gang disputes, botched robberies, and killings that all took place in one private residence – they are indeed cutting out everything that doesn’t fit the “madman shoots a bunch of random people” by excluding people doing more than one crime at a time, people massacring their own families, etc) are relatively less common in Canada than the US – depending on how you count a few edge cases, they’re probably about 50% more common in the US than in Canada relative to population.

          This is interesting because the US intentional homicide rate is almost 3x as much as Canada’s – so there’s more of a disparity for all intentional homicides, than between for in that variety of mass shooting. Presumably, the explanation is something along the lines of mass shootings being determined less by “social factors” or however one wants to describe the differences between Canada and the US in that regard than intentional homicides in general. Additionally, the Canadian average death toll is not much lower than the US – it’s probably around 7 in Canada vs 8 in the US.

          However, Canada has had considerably fewer high-body-toll outliers than the US: we’ve had only one mass shooting of that variety with a double-digit death toll (in which the shooter used a Mini-14) while the US has had 20 – so, 2x relatively, and as I understand it outliers tend to be less a “relative” thing.

          To what extent are the high-body-count outliers committed with semiautomatic intermediate-calibre rifles, especially AR-15s, compared to mass shootings in general (whether simply saying 4 killed, or using the WaPo definition)?

          EDIT: It’s not that you can’t get a semiautomatic intermediate calibre rifle in Canada, but there’s a nationwide magazine limit, there’s more restrictions on length etc, and some models are especially restricted (I think it’s harder to get a .22 AR-15-looking rifle than a Mini-14).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            “Some models are especially restricted” is pretty meaningless. It just means that instead of an AR-15 you have to settle for a TAR-21, and use a magazine stamped for “pistol” use or a non-standard magazine.

            And actually, a lot of the high-body outliers were committed with pistols too. So, no, I don’t think this is particularly convincing or that these laws are accomplishing anything meaningful.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So, you think it’s coincidence? That’s a possibility too.

            I’m of the opinion that the way the Canadian laws restrict some firearms are dumb. They actually do it by specifying models. The laws weren’t made by firearms experts; nowhere close.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I don’t think it’s a coincidence, I think the disparity in high body count outliers is due almost entirely to the disparity in sample size (which is to say, population size).

            To the extent that Canadian gun control laws are doing anything, I think it’s pretty much entirely the licensing procedure, and more specifically the interview and background check, not the model restrictions, magazine limits, etc etc.

            That said, I think that that sort of selectivity does probably have a meaningful effect.

      • semi-automatic rifles like AR-15,

        I can’t tell from this whether you think that there is something special about the AR-15. A large fraction of hunting rifles and, I think, most handguns sold are semi-automatics. And while killing people with a revolver, bolt action, lever action, or pump rifle would be a little slower, the difference wouldn’t be enormous.

        • Another Throw says:

          revolver

          So, revolvers are kind of weird, in that they are probably not technically semi-automatic because they are not reloaded automatically, but the vast majority of them—excepting almost exclusively 100+ y/o antiques and reproductions thereof—are almost certainly semi-automatic in the common understanding of “one shot per trigger pull [with no other action required to make it work].” The distinction between the reloading mechanism operating as part of the trigger-action, and the reloading mechanism operating automatically is a technically interesting one, but not one that actually matters to the public.

          I mean, right? Because the operation of the cocking mechanism is covered by the single/double-action distinction, because double-action only pistols exist, and are considered semi-automatic.

          Regardless of the answer to the question, my point is that the misunderstanding of the terminology is a serious impediment to discussing issues and solutions. In this particular case, because “semi-automatic” is an unintuitive category that doesn’t actually capture what people asking to ban semi-automatic firearms are looking for. The fact that it is perfectly possible to create a firearm that reloads manually but is functionally indistinguishable from a semi-auto is only one of the problems.

          And as a supplementary point, the common understanding of semi-automatic has been The Standard for well over 100 years. Any explanation of new phenomena that doesn’t account for this is missing at least half the story, so any solution derived from such an explanation will almost certainly not address the phenomena in question.

          • Protagoras says:

            Why double action revolvers aren’t technically classified as semi-automatic is probably mostly historical, but for the purposes of the gun control debate, it is notable that a revolver inherently has a fairly low limit for the number of shots it can fire before needing to be reloaded. Also, the different mechanism and inferior ergonomics makes them slightly more difficult to aim (I seem to recall Friedman arguing in another thread some time ago that this made them poorer self-defense weapons than semi-auto pistols) and I believe as a result also harder to maintain aim when firing quickly. So putting them in a different class seems to make a decent amount of sense.

          • Another Throw says:

            The capacity of a revolver isn’t that much different than most compact/subcompact pistols, and there is no reason that a couple of years of innovation couldn’t fix the ergonomic limitations. Revolvers have not been innovated on because the historic form factor is a nitch and semi-autos fill all the functional roles. Ban semi-automatics, and revolvers will have a couple of years of innovation in striker firing, composite frames, better ergonomics, etc. In a couple more years there will be speed loading clips that lay flat inside the magazine pouch and snap into the round shape you need to put it in the cylinder when removed from the pouch. In a couple more years, there will be magazine feed revolvers indistinguishable from a pistol; ejection and reloading will be accomplished manually through the trigger pull.

            There will obviously be costs. They probably will not be as cheap, reliable, or effective as a few-years from now semi-auto, but nevertheless a substantial improvement over the historic form factor.

            Also, revolving rifles were totally a thing, for a while. And would be again.

            Edit: It is also worth noting that until the last 20 years or so, police departments still overwhelmingly used revolvers. This is at least suggestive that the cost-benefit inflection point between the revolvers and pistols for police work was relatively recent. Though this may be confounded by the increasing “militarization” of the police during that time, and the military adopted pistols a century ago. If the cost benefit inflection point for police was so recent, the relative advantages of pistols over revolvers may be smaller than supposed.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Another –

            Great! They’ll ruin revolvers!

            Seriously, though. I can buy a nine-shot revolver. Probably higher if I look, but that is the one I am eyeballing.

            IIRC, a speed-loader for that model costs about $8. It takes about the same amount of time to load a revolver with that as it does to change a magazine, maybe slightly longer if your dexterity isn’t great.

            Of the gun culture people I know, I’d guess 30% have built their own gun, and 20% load their own ammunition.

            People who aren’t gun people don’t quite understand how out-of-the-bag the cat is at this point. There isn’t even a bag anymore, it’s so shot full of holes it is more of a floppy collander.

          • Incurian says:

            Of the gun culture people I know, I’d guess 30% have built their own gun

            When you say ‘build’, what do you mean exactly?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Incurian –

            The typical case is taking either an assembly kit, or parts from broken guns, and assembling a new rifle with a handmade stock.

            (Easy mode)

            I’ve also encountered people who have built them entirely out of parts from their local hardware store with some basic level of machining. Apparently it isn’t particularly difficult, but the results usually aren’t quite as reliable or nice to shoot as the above unless you’ve done it a few times. (I think I know exactly one individual who has made a commercial-grade rifle using hardware store parts, and she’s a professional gunsmith; but I have met amateurs who have done it.)

            (Hard mode)

            Rifles are really easy to make (bolt or lever action slightly easier than semi-automatic, but all relatively simple). Semi-auto handguns slightly harder but still doable.

            I’ve never seen someone make a revolver. I imagine it would be doable, but it seems like it would take a special kind of stupid, since casting is really easy to get wrong and the damn thing would explode in your hand, or else you weld six steel tubes together and if you mess up the welds and weaken any of the tubes the damn thing would explode in your hand. Too much opportunity for exploding in your hand for my taste.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Thegnskald

            My understanding is that revolver cylinders are typically machined from a forged blank. Ruger famously casts them, but I doubt that process would make sense for a one-off.

          • CatCube says:

            A YouTube channel that fascinated me (mostly because it was the first example I saw) was Clinton Westwood‘s, where he’s made three pistols using easily-purchased stock steel and aluminum and common shop tools. Apparently, you can machine aluminum with a regular wood router–did not know that.

          • Aapje says:

            The simplest and most reliable gun to make by hand is probably a slam fire shotgun. It consists of a narrower tube, which is the barrel and a wider tube, which is the sleeve. You slam/slide the barrel with a shell in it backwards, within the sleeve, until it hits a fixed firing pin that is mounted at the back..

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve met a bunch of people who’ve machined lower receivers for AR-15 pattern rifles (legally the gun, since it’s the part with the serial number on it) from 80% completed castings (the most “completed” it can be for it to legally be a hunk of metal rather than a gun), and a couple who’ve done frames for 1911 pattern semiautomatic handguns (same idea, but a trickier machining process).

            I’ve only met one guy who’d made most of a gun from scratch — he was doing revolvers and lever-action rifles, but if you can do that then you can do a semiauto just as easily. He was a really talented machinist, though — did telescope optics and high-end model airplanes too, both of which take a lot of skill and precision.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Thegnskald

            Of the gun culture people I know, I’d guess 30% have built their own gun, and 20% load their own ammunition

            You mean built from a kit, not assembled from scratch. Aside from simple single shot “zip guns”, building firearms from scratch is harder than you think. Certainly people have built semi, and fully automatic firearms in their garages (here is Ian “gun Jesus” McCollum with some examples), but the level of skill involved probably puts it out of reach for the average spree shooter.

            The fact that we do not see many fully automatic weapons used in homicides in the US is indicative here. It’s much easier to convert a semi automatic weapon to full auto than it is to build one from scratch; and yet since the passing of the NFA, and the end of the age of the Chicago typewriter, machine guns have been vanishingly one American streets.

            I suspect the reason is that, a few exceptions not withstanding, most of criminals sophisticated enough to convert weapons to full auto are sophisticated enough to know not to use them, less they attract unnecessary attention from law enforcement.

          • toastengineer says:

            @hyperboloid

            Even so, 3D-printed (and by 3D printed I mean plastic layer deposition, the method cheap hobbyist printers use) rifles have existed for a while. Sure they break down after ~1,000 rounds, but that’s way more than a mass shooter will ever fire.

            Ammo would be trouble but I imagine it’d be significantly easier to buy black market.

          • hyperboloid says:

            3D-printed (and by 3D printed I mean plastic layer deposition, the method cheap hobbyist printers use) rifles

            Citation needed. I think your talking about AR-15s that use 3d printed lower receivers, where all of the pressure bearing components are sourced from professionally manufactured firearms. And even then I like to see a source for the thousand rounds claim.

            Al of the truly 3d printed guns I’ve ever heard of would fall under the same category as the so called “zip guns”, crude firearms manufactured from hardware store bought parts that were a common features of fifties, and sixties era youth gangs. They tend to be single shot (though I did see one that was a .22 pepper box style revolver), unrifled, and if they don’t use metal components for the barrel are likely to be subject very rabid ablation of the inner surface of the bore.

            Consequently purely plastic guns likely have truly negligible accuracy, even when compared to something built from store bought pipe. For the time being, if professionally manufactured firearms components are tightly regulated, than 3d printed guns will not be any more of a threat than the shop class made weapons of an earlier generation.

      • John Schilling says:

        In my country, Romania, there was never ever a school shooting in our entire history – and that is due to the complete lack of guns

        There appear to be about thirty fatal shootings in Romania every year, so apparently there is not a complete lack of guns. And I’ll wager that at least one of the fatal shootings in Romania’s history as a nation has occurred on the grounds of a school.

        But if what you mean is that Romania has never experienced a mass shooting on a schoolyard, e.g. because a disturbed student wanted to kill a bunch of his former classmates or teachers, this is unremarkable. Even by the relatively generous standard of four dead = mass shooting, New York State has never had a school mass shooting in its history. And New York State has a population greater than that of Romania.

        Mass shooting incidents in schools are very rare, everywhere. Most states or nations will have zero or one per generation, and it is mostly blind luck whether your particular state draws “zero” in that lottery. Only the most populous nations get multiple school shootings, and that’s mostly because of the lots of students.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m not sure whether I believe in such a thing as a natural right. But the right to keep and bear arms is at least as close to a natural right as speech is. You can’t call a man free if he’s unable to speak his mind or defend himself.

      It would be good for the rest of the Anglosphere if there were fewer restrictions on gun ownership/ self defense and speech. I’m not going to go and fight for their rights, that’s presumptuous and frankly none of my business. But it would be better for them if their governments did respect those principles.

      As for mass shootings, honestly I’d trade them for the issues that you in the UK are dealing with now. I don’t believe that e.g. Rotherham and the similar rape gangs in most English cities could operate if the populace was armed. Tens of thousands of schoolgirls being brutally raped versus dozens of schoolchildren being shot seems like a no-brainer. That’s not even talking about regular crime; this is the most spectacular failure of policing I’ve ever heard of in my life and the only reason that it can continue is that people are too afraid to speak out and too weak to fight back.

      I would never raise a child in an environment where I couldn’t defend them with deadly force or speak up if I thought that they might be in danger. I’m much more concerned with that than the remote possibility one of their classmates will attack the school.

      • Garrett says:

        +1 here.

        For me, the fundamental issue is self-defense as derived from the right to life. Find a way universally superior to a firearm and we can talk.

    • rlms says:

      I don’t oppose gun control in the US, but the restrictions on owning pistols for sport in the UK seem too strict (apparently the Olympic pistol shooting team has to train in France).

    • Thegnskald says:

      No. At least not quickly.

      Gun culture is very important. Summarizing a longer comment that got eaten, if your culture thinks guns are for killing people, that is what they will tend to get used to do. You need a culture which treats guns with respect, and that doesn’t automatically come with gun ownership. So, if you want gun ownership in the UK, you need to do it slowly, and ideally by making gun ownership a thing only respectable people can do; you build a healthy culture around guns before introducing them.

      You drop a pile of guns in front of a bunch of people who think guns are to kill people with, and that is what they are going to get used to do – if for no other reason than that nobody else is going to pick one up.

      Mind, this is not a problem unique to guns. If people thought screwdrivers were for killing people, that is what they would get used for, too. Which is my primary complaint about many gun control advocates; their attitude towards guns literally makes guns worse.

      • Vorkon says:

        This is basically the core of what I wanted to say. I might have time to write up an answer to the original question myself at some point, but for now I’ll just leave a “+1” here, and call it good.

    • Incurian says:

      No opinion.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      That’s tough to say. I don’t know enough about their gun laws or gun cultures to advise them on what to do. A lot of the difference might just be a general lower desire to own weapons. It’s a legitimate societal trade-off if that’s the case.

    • Sfoil says:

      Yes, I do generally think that gun laws in e.g. Europe are too strict, although what really bothers me is less the gun laws per se than unreasonable restrictions on self-defense.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Yes, this something I don’t understand. I don’t know if it’s just clickbait headlines, but I’ll see stuff from Canada or the UK where somebody fought back against a home invader and then was charged with assault or murder. Thinking about that gives me a feeling of dread: that the state would punish me for preventing someone else from murdering me. And worse that people are okay with that.

    • John Schilling says:

      For people who oppose (significantly) increased gun control in countries like the US: do you also think that more liberal gun laws and/or more people having guns would be a good thing in e.g. the UK?

      If the UK were to return to its pre-Dunblane gun laws, this would I expect have no significant effect beyond signalling “wanting to shoot a pistol does not make one a priori an Enemy of Society”. Which I favor just about everywhere.

      Beyond that, if we’re talking about any significant number of Englishmen keeping and bearing a